Daniel V


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Often, enemies really are innately evil.

Evil is when you "know that some things are damaging to someone else, gain no tangible value from doing them (or even expect that their life would be worse off!), know it is not a virtuous act, and do the harmful acts anyway without expecting future good to come from it."

The first failure point is "gain no tangible value." Imagine any prototypically evil character, maybe a person who is bullying once, maybe a chronic bully, maybe Dr. Evil, maybe Satan. Each of these gains some subjective value from their actions, if not "tangible" value. Either "tangible" is critical here, in which case you have way too narrow a definition of value, or it's not, in which case it is clear that these people are selfish and pretty legible.

What makes them evil is that their value system is so out of whack that they are evil (please just live with the circularity for now, I'm not trying to propose that as a formal definition). So the person who is bullying once and then learning it doesn't fulfill them that much...they may have done a bad, or even evil, thing, but they aren't evil! Same of the chronic bully - if they had a bad home life and are coping poorly, their innate value system may still be programmable to avoid evil acts. Dr. Evil is much closer to chronic evil right up until Goldmember (I can't believe I'm really going with this), when we find out he is a victim of circumstance, which anyone seemingly can be with enough compassion. Satan, well yeah, he's evil.

No one likes or endorses bullying, but you need a definition of evil that has validity, and yours is debatable. But even if accepted, it hardly encompasses a lot of people. You could actually stand to loosen the definition of evil, but you quickly run into selfishness. Construct definition is step one here. And it'll probably carry value judgments (see: virtue).

Alcohol, health, and the ruthless logic of the Asian flush

Your discussion would suggest that disulfiram might not work at curing alcoholism but could be a useful prophylactic. Lace the drinking water with it and people will avoid alcohol or stop earlier! What could go wrong?

Summaries of uncertain priors

Aleatory and epistemic uncertainty often get wrapped up together so these estimates are not always proper probabilities nor measuresof confidence. You're separating them, good for you!

Let's Rename Ourselves The "Metacognitive Movement"

There once was a time when people who were obsessed with knowledge (and the appropriate action flowing therefrom) were called scientists. Now they are just adherents to scientism, and the rest of us have to pick up terms to describe our taking the mantle. Where the "rationalist" community seems to be is at the intersection of metacognition and "rational" (whatever that means :P ). Neither describes the movement entirely on its own, but with their powers combined...

Interesting post, thanks.

Rising rents and appropriate responses

Basic standard microeconomics (supply and demand) is a pretty strong model, so you're doing great! 

What you're missing is formalizing the value or disvalue being pursued or created by the system.
Right up until "If you do literally nothing at all," the discussion was about prices and quantity, but then suddenly we care about aesthetics and infrastructure. Did you know that people would also pay for that, too? This might lead to things like some neighborhoods being more valuable than others and accordingly commanding higher prices for otherwise similar accommodations.

If a lot of people want to move to the city because the opportunity is so vast and they aren't as concerned about aesthetics, developers would develop accordingly. If instead many of these people are pickier, well, developers would be too. This sounds bad because that means we can't guarantee other people live according to our preferences, but it's actually good because it's demand and supply meeting up. Where things go awry is when these market exchanges create externalities that should be internalized by the market participants. If bare wires a strewn across the streets and children are being electrocuted every day, maybe we need a government to enforce some basic regulatory code to take care of that (because in this hypothetical, I guess the neighborhood is populated by selfish singles and the children come from elsewhere to play in these oh so attractive streets, so the problem won't get fixed otherwise).

Yes, inventing a generic government can cover the really bad results (if they occur) from this market arrangement. The risk with this is that people may then seek to enforce their preferences through this government rather than letting the market handle it. That might be fine. Or it might be inefficient, maybe even unjust. "I think apartment complexes should have at least a one-car garage or two parking spaces per unit; I'm also super benevolent so developers can mix and match" leads to an absurd result when the would-be tenants just grin and bear it despite their preference for taking the available public transit or use their bikes. It just becomes a value-suck, raising prices and/or lowering supply, achieving one (foolish) objective to the neglect of the many (important) others.

I come from a mountain town - space is scarce. The government decided it would be more efficient, kinda neat in town, and better for tax revenue to implement onerous housing regulations but exempt mixed-use (residential on top, commercial on bottom, and you know it, parking in the back) from some (not all) of those regs. We got a lot more mixed use. The housing filled up since we had a shortage already. The commercial did not, wasting resources and space. This also cratered commercial rent prices, but the new building owners don't seem to cry about it. Turns out the developers were building residential space; commercial rent would just be gravy since the commercial space was just to get the desired regulatory structure applied. That's how valuable the residential space was.

I can tell you what experts aren't disagreeing on.

Coincidences are Improbable

The two "direct" causal links are the only ones we would really call "causal" regarding A and B.

But I am a big fan of "correlation implies causation." It might not be between A and B specifically, but it means we've been able to detect something happening.

Sometimes even non-effects, when theory is strong enough, can indicate causation (though then the usual course of action is to control one of the paths to get an effect that you can talk about and publish). For example, you are about to eat an allergen, which you know causes side effects for you with p=1. You take Benadryl beforehand and have no side effects. There is no "effect" there (post state = pre state), but you can feel pretty sure Benadryl had a suppressing action on the allergen's effects (and then you would follow-up with experiments where you ate the allergen without Benadryl or took the Benadryl without eating the allergen to see the positive and negative effects separately).

The Median is Less than the Average

OP's claim is that intelligence is positively skewed. Counter-points are "most brains are slightly worse"  (Donald Hobson) and "you oversample the high-intelligence people, so your claim is biased because of availability" (Ericf).

Both of these counter-points agree with, rather than disagree with, lsusr's point. Most brains are slightly worse implies positive skew and to the extent that lsusr oversamples high-intelligence people, they are underestimating how positively skewed intelligence is yet still conclude it is positively skewed (caveat: as Donald Hobson says, the measurement approach can be really important here, but for the sake of argument let's say lsusr is talking about latent intelligence, and our measures just need to catch up with the theory).

Ericf also makes another interesting point- "variation in low intelligence is less identifiable than variation in high intelligence," 160 vs. 130 IQ people will act differently, but 40 vs. 70 IQ people won't so much, or at least the IQ test is better at delineating on the high end than low end. I am no expert on the measurement of intelligence, but this point probably shouldn't just be taken at face value- for example, individuals with Down's syndrome consistently have IQs less than 70 and getting below 70 is rare, as expected since IQ is designed to be Gaussian. But the implication of that is that as rare (and therefore difficult to dig into) as low IQs are, high IQs are...equally rare (and therefore difficult to dig into).

I agree that OP's claim should also be subjected to scrutiny -simply saying intelligence is positively skewed doesn't make it so- but I also don't find the present set of counter-points either that contradictory or that convincing either. Just my two cents.


Build Your Number Sense

FWIW, number sense is definitely a thing in psychology.

How likely is it that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a laboratory?
  1. Escaped/circulated earlier than officially reported.
  2. False positives.
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