Just this guy, you know?

Dagon's Comments

Conflict vs. mistake in non-zero-sum games
I'm going to provocatively call the first strategy mistake theory, and the second conflict theory.

I think that's very confusing. The relevant distinctions are not in your essay at all - they're about how much each side value's the other side's desires, and whether they think there IS significant difference in sum based on cooperation, and what kinds of repeated interactions are expected.

Your thesis is very biased toward mistake theory, and makes simply wrong assumptions about most of the conflicts that this applies to.

Indeed, the mistake theory strategy pushes the obviously good plan of making things better off for everyone.

No, mistake theorists push the obviously bad plan of letting the opposition control the narrative and destroy any value that might be left. The outgroup is evil, not negotiating in good faith, and it's an error to give them an inch. Conflict theory is the correct one for this decision.

The reason I'm thinking about this is that I want a theory of non-zero-sum games involving counterfactual reasoning and superrationality. It's not clear to me what superrational agents "should" do in general non-zero-sum games.

Wait, shouldn't you want a decision theory (including non-zero-sum games) that maximizes your goals? It probably will include counterfactual reasoning, but may or may not touch on superrationality. In any case, social categorization of conflict is probably the wrong starting point.

Sivaram Konanki's Shortform

Is this in reaction to something? I've seen some Zoom security hype, but nothing serious enough that it's going to hurt them. What do you think will happen to them?

There are definitely alternatives to them, none as simple and cheap. Which answers the question of "why not" - there's no profit in it. My prediction is that someone with a very sophisticated advertising and personal-data business model will have a product out soon that competes (or they'll just buy Zoom). Facebook and Google would be front-runners for it.

In fact, apparently Facebook has launched group video chat in the last few days. Haven't looked at it yet.

Why do we have offices?

Note that supervision of complex knowledge work is _ALMOST_ as difficult in an office. There're plenty of ways to slack off while physically present - watching netflix is out, but that's not the risk. Reading Less Wrong all day looks like work, at first glance. And the solutions are the same. First,

the people who supervise the work are usually not programmers themselves

is simply a mistake. At least in the big tech companies I've looked at, managers were almost always engineers before they transitioned to the dark side. And there are 1-2 levels of management that bridge the evaluations from the line-level "able to evaluate daily work of programmers" to the senior management "able to evaluate a team's business-impact output".

Second, as long as you have SOME employees who are actively invested in the work, they'll tell you who they want to work with and who they don't, and why. This isn't perfect, and some will lie or misinterpret things, but it's enough of a pointer for managers to more actively look into.

Price Gouging and Speculative Costs

Within normal constraints and timeframes, this is absolutely true - speculators are performing an important role in predicting and propagating demand. For short-term events which are ALREADY visible to suppliers (and somewhat less so to consumers) speculation has less information value, and more disruptive impact by their normal-value of shifting demand forward. In these situations, they shift a temporary demand into a much higher peak than it otherwise would be.

In other words, speculators are valuable usually, because usually they're flattening the curve. They're harmful in some exceptional circumstances because they cause the spike to be artificially higher than it otherwise would be.

Note that it's NEVER this black and white. It's certainly true that there are both benefits and harms to different constituencies in all cases, and where you net out will depend on what you're focusing on.

April Coronavirus Open Thread

Hard to separate government from cultural/behavioral issues - they reinforce each other. But variance in behaviors regionally (differences in how quickly governments signaled action and how well populations complied) seems likely to be a significant driver of variation of outcomes.

Wild guesses: 30% from different patterns of trade and interaction with the broader infected world, 25% from different social structures and living situations (types of corner store and shopping/entertainment mechanisms), 45% from behavioral differences and reaction time. I don't think I can defend these guesses, and would be interested to hear other perspectives and missing causes of variation.

Note that we don't actually know yet if NYC is all that much worse off than San Francisco. It looks that way currently, but a lot can change in a few weeks.

April Coronavirus Open Thread

With noticeably different governance and social reactions in different locations, I wonder if this situation will spur migration in the coming few years. At what point is it worth moving to somewhere with more sane (still broken; nowhere is perfect) government and social behaviors, even if it's more distant from your personal networks?

Seattle and the Bay Area are looking pretty good compared to New York and Florida (this could reverse over the next few months, but it's unlikely that by end of year there'll be no difference in terms how we evaluate their reactions and outcomes).

Similarly for urban vs more spread-out locations. Especially as many of us learn that we CAN be fairly productive anywhere there's internet service, I wonder if more of us will opt to be around fewer strangers standing so close all the time.

I predict not much movement - people have a learned helplessness about governments, and easily forget that they have choices. And the advantages of cities remain powerful. And, importantly, most people don't actually have quite as much future financial and social freedom as LW readers tend to.

How will this recession differ from the last two?

It'll be interesting to see if it takes some focus off of finance measures. I predict not, as that's the aggregate lens that almost everyone in power looks through.

But the fundamental problem is that there is no actual measurement of human satisfaction, and financial productivity diverges hugely from anything we'd rationally want to optimize. GDP is paperclips.

To take a dirt-simple example, person A and person B are neighbors. Person A sells bread to person B for $10/week, and pays person B $10/week to mow their lawn. Gross Neighboorhood Product is $1040/year. Now something comes along to disrupt this, and each one has to mow their own lawn and bake their own bread. It takes longer, doing things they are less skilled at, but still gets done. But it's an enormous financial loss - measured productivity goes to $0!

Mati_Roy's Shortform
  • Employee focus (having punctuated behaviors separating work from personal time)
  • Tax advantages for employers to own workspaces and fixtures rather than employees
  • Not clear that "can be done remotely" is the right metric. We won't know if "can be done as effectively (or more effectively) remotely" is true for some time.
romeostevensit's Shortform

I'd expect not. Overall, productivity is going down mostly because of upheaval and mismatch in supply chains and in efficient ways for labor to use capital. So return to well-situated capital and labor is up, but amount of capital and labor that is well-situated is down. Pure undifferentiated capital has a lower return, plus rising nominal prices means seeking returns is the main motivation, not avoiding risk.

TIPS seem like useful things to have in your portfolio, but rates are lagging quite a bit, so either the market disagrees with me, or the safety value is so high that people are willing to lose value over time. I think stocks will be OK - the last 40 years has seen a lot of financial and government backstops that mean we're pretty good at protecting the rich on this front, and if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Cash or the like is probably a mistake. I have no good model for Bitcoin or Gold, but my gut says they'll find a way to lose value against consumer prices. Real Estate (especially where there's not a large population-density premium) seems pretty sane.

Note: I am not a superforcaster, and have no special knowledge or ability in this area. I'm just pointing out mechanisms that could move things the other direction that the obvious.

Will grocery stores thwart social distancing, and when should I eat my food stockpile?

Seattle-area groceries are mixed - some doing well at social distancing (have 6-foot spacers marked for a line outside, and letting in limited shoppers, with more going in only after some come out), some not so much, especially at peak times. Early morning (before 7) or late morning (after opening rush, before 11) seem quietest. Employees and shoppers about 30% likely to wipe down basket and cart between uses, about 20% surgical mask usage, haven't seen a N95+ in a while. I feel pretty good with double-mask and nitrile gloves, and wiping down handles before use with a chlorine or alcohol wipe.

Driving is pretty safe, alone. It's probably worth going by a few different stores to find the one you're most comfortable with before going in. If you're walking or using public transport, your options are more limited.

The best plan for your food stockpile is to replenish and use it. Keep 3-5 weeks, shop when you're down to 3.5, buying up to 5.

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