All of Dave Lindbergh's Comments + Replies

They don't make 'em like they used to

Cherry picking. How many of those stoves were made 100 years ago? How many are around now?

Some of our 2021 stoves will be around in 100 years, too. Not many. Will someone point at one and say "back in 2021 they built to last"?

(Same reason old European cities are prettier than new American ones - the ugly buildings got torn down and replaced, the pretty ones didn't. After a while you have a lot of pretty buildings.)

3Vanilla_cabs1moI'm not convinced there was/is a preference for tearing down ugly buildings rather than pretty ones in Europe. A lot of buildings were torn down during the 2 World Wars and many other wars before, and combatants don't choose their targets based on aesthetic preferences. Also, keeping old buildings pretty requires special effort and expense. Old buildings age, due to erosion, vegetal invasion (you wouldn't believe what damage plants are capable of doing), temperature change (especially when water infiltrated in the joints freezes), pollution, vandalism, terrain instability, etc. Europe has pretty old buildings because it cares about and is willing to invest in pretty old buildings, it's not something that falls into your lap after a dozen centuries.
4jasoncrawford1moTrue, but it's not that hard to imagine that a cast-iron stove could still be working a century later. It's pretty simple as far as I understand it… pretty much just a metal box with doors and a stovepipe.
Ten Hundred Megaseconds

It's been done.

That aside, what's so special about base 10? 

Wouldn't it be more logical to celebrate passage of, say, 2^24 seconds (194 days)? Once we're no longer constrained to human bodies, we can have as many fingers on our hands as we want, so we may as well have 8 or 16.

2gilch2moThe objectively correct base is six [] .
2Gunnar_Zarncke2moThe human lifespan currently is limited to a long: 2^32 = 136 years (google can answer [] that).
2philh2moSorry, but outside of surface elements (being about time, base ten, the word "second") I'm not sure what about my proposal you think has been done in decimal time. There's nothing particularly special about base ten¹, but I'm also not sure there's any particular reason to move away from it, much like the second. Base twelve would probably be more convenient for mental arithmetic, but I don't much expect a shift to occur. If 2^24 seconds would be more logical, I confess I don't see why - what do you mean by "logical"? And, like... this is partly about looking to the future, but I can't just ignore the present. Seconds mean something to people today. A billion seconds means something to people today. 2^24 or 2^30 seconds might mean something to some people, but not as many. 1. Base 10 is special because every base is base 10. :p
How should dance venues best protect the drinks of attendees?

Your social circle is very different from any I've ever been in. Sorry to hear that.

I assume these drugs take effect gradually, and that the effects are dramatic enough that the victim is (eventually) aware of them.

If so, mightn't it be better to warn everyone about the problem (be on the lookout for drug effects!), and advise victims to inform others about the scumbags doing this? (Under the assumption that most of them time when people are drugged it'll be fairly obvious who did it.)

I'd think it would be better to drive the scumbags out of your community than to just find a way to prevent one attack vector. (Surely those who'd stoop to this will find other equally objectionable ways to achieve their ends.)

1Maxwell Peterson2moThanks. Wish we could! These are shows with hundreds or sometimes even thousands of attendees, and tickets are sold online to the public, so it’s not clear whether the attackers are even repeat attendees or actually in the relatively smaller group of people we know. General warnings to watch out for this kind of thing are definitely going out :)
Simulated Elon Musk Lives in a Simulation

It's cool - a little too cool; I wonder how much was the effect from your cherry-picking answers.

Even so, I'd love to ask the simulation a few questions of my own.

Why the technological singularity by AGI may never happen

We don't know, true. But given the possible space of limiting parameters it seems unlikely that humans are anywhere near the limits. We're evolved systems, evolved under conditions in which intelligence was far from the most important priority.

And of course under the usual evolutionary constraints (suboptimal lock-ins like backward wired photoreceptors in the retina, the usual limited range of biological materials - nothing like transistors or macro scale wheels, etc.).

And by all reports John von Neumann was barely within the "human" range, yet seemed pret... (read more)

2hippke3moHow did von Neumann come close to taking over the world? Perhaps Hitler, but von Neumann?
Against "blankfaces"

Yes, I think some web portals, and some software, are designed poorly because of malice. Not (usually) malice against users, but malice against managers and those setting requirements, when those people and their instructions are perceived as stupid and unreasonable.

One reaction to such demands is to deliver exactly what was requested - something stupid and unreasonable, in order to vividly demonstrate the stupid and unreasonable nature of the managers and requirements.

Sometimes professionalism, ethics, and dedication to user experience manage to overcome ... (read more)

Brief thoughts on inefficient writing systems

For example, in Year 1 that useless letter "c" would be dropped to be replased either by "k" or "s", and likewise "x" would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which "c" would be retained would be the "ch" formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform "w" spelling, so that "which" and "one" would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish "y" replasing it with "i" and Iear 4 might fiks the "g/j" anomali wonse and for all.

Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with u... (read more)

2Richard_Kennaway4moSource []. Original source unknown.
DeepMind: Generally capable agents emerge from open-ended play

We need to understand information encoding in the brain before we can achieve full AGI.

Maybe. For many years, I went around saying that we'd never have machines that accurately transcribe natural speech until those machines understood the meaning of the speech. I thought that context was necessary.

I was wrong.

1bfinn4moThey do use context, surely - viz. the immediate verbal context, plus training on vast amounts of other text which is background 'information'. Which though not tantamount to meaning (as it's not connected to the world), would form a significant part of meaning.
3Daniel Kokotajlo4moWhat makes you think our latest transcription AI's don't understand the meaning of the speech? Also what makes you think they have reached a sufficient level of accuracy that your past self would have claimed that they must understand the meaning of the speech? Maybe they still make mistakes sometimes and maybe your past self would have pointed to those mistakes and said "see, they don't really understand."
Punishing the good

Bob's a hero provided he's paid his meat tax. That's the tax we impose on people who do bad things to animals. The tax makes up for their bad karma. People who pay the tax should be considered absolved of sin - they've bought and paid for their indulgence, fair and square.

Am I a contemptible person because I burnt a gallon of gasoline this morning? What if I paid for it, external costs included? What if I paid a separate CO2 tax? What if I offset the carbon by planting trees? I think not.

Does this viewpoint make me a monster? As Temple Grandin likes to say... (read more)

The homework assignment incentives, and why it's now so extreme

By policing that, I mean if the students don't get the graded homework back in 48 hours, they can complain to administrators and parents, who can pressure the teacher. This assumes the administrators decide to make and enforce the 48 hour rule.

Re coordination, I've seen kids using "group chat" on Facebook or similar. In some schools (good ones) it seems to be de rigueur.

ELI12: how do libertarians want wages to work?

Managers are fewer than workers but there are thousands of firms in every country (as well as millions of workers) so in either case we're well into the law of large numbers. There's no practical way for thousands of entities to form stable cartels (without government backing).

If you worry about employers in a city forming a cartel to keep wages low, shouldn't you worry even more about supermarkets doing the same to keep grocery prices high? There are a lot fewer supermarkets than firms that employ workers.

And all other prices are set by dealings between m... (read more)

1TekhneMakre5mo> so in either case we're well into the law of large numbers. True. But this doesn't help with the part where a manager can outlast a given worker in a negotiation-war. Say a manager has 10 employees. Given a manager, an employee makes 10 widgets per year. Right now, the manager takes 1 widget from each employee per year. A person needs 7 widgets/year to survive. So the manager goes to the first employee and says, okay, now I'm going to take 2 widgets / year from you. Should the employee quit? They'll have costs to look for another job, and maybe will have to move, and maybe they won't even find a job that pays more than 8 widgets / year. Should they bargain, holding out for 9 widgets/year? The manager is already getting 9 widgets /year from the other employees. The employee, though, is starting to starve. You're saying that other managers will bid for the employee. They might... but I don't see why it's true in general that the managers bidding against each other for employees overpowers the incentive to lower wages. Do you? Can you give an argument, e.g. a toy example? Do you want to make a claim like "most businesses have conditions where managers can't 'exploit' workers" for some appropriate value of "exploit"? For example, it seems like if managers can only manage up to 10 employees (e.g. because it's hard to manage), then things are bad for the employees. Unless they can coordinate. But coordination might be hard in some cases. We could say, that's not stable because there could just be more managers... but is that right? It could be a general fact, but I don't see why, and I'm asking for arguments. >I don't think are good reasons to treat worker-employer relations as any different than seller-buyer relations for any other goods or services. Yeah this really doesn't make sense to me. Can you expand? Are you saying that you expect the equilibration dynamics to output "roughly the same" result, or "roughly the correct" result, or "roughly the best feasibl
ELI12: how do libertarians want wages to work?

Government intervention is generally considered a bad idea (I won't say "not legitimate") because the intervention is usually laws that stop people from making the deals they want to make, which usually is bad for all parties involved - if they didn't think the deal was better than no deal, they wouldn't want to make it.

But I suppose there might be other government interventions that would be OK (for example providing information about competing offers, or offering education, etc.).

1jmh5moBut it seems very little government intervention into any economic activity or relationship is really dominated by the wishes or needs of those directly involved. Most seems related to external impact -- parties outside the direct exchange.
7TekhneMakre5moThe idea is that government is a tool for enforcing a group decision. If at any given time half of workers are holding out for higher wages and half are scabs, then the managers are always fed and can always starve out the striking workers. So the striking workers want to use violent threats to prevent other workers from breaking the strike, i.e. making a deal they want to make with the managers. And this enforcement can be formalized / sublated into government, both as specific negotiating outcomes (wage, working conditions) and as process (unions given some power by government-enforced law, I assume?). (In practice this might be very far from what actually ends up happening. And I'm not particularly in favor of gvt. But I can see the game-theoretic use, and I think this is the historical origin of unions and wage laws and worker's rights... or maybe it's not?) If our libertarianism implies no monopoly on force, then unions can still prevent trades between willing parties. If it implies enforcing no use of force at all, then it seems like we've severely limited the ability of workers to bargain, relative to the "state of nature". Maybe unions would regrow without being founded on threats of violence? But this seems surprising; it seems like it would require a high degree of game-theoretic fluency.
ELI12: how do libertarians want wages to work?

Lots of other prices are "sticky" like that. It's a psychological thing - nothing special about wages.

The question was about wages, not how to survive. Lots of people who earn wages don't live on them. Lots of people don't sell their labor at all. Children, disabled people, retired people, people in business, etc. don't live on wages. 

How to get enough money to live is an entirely separate question from how "wages work". There are lots of other ways to survive that don't involve wages - making and selling things, telling stories and writing books, gif... (read more)

1TekhneMakre5moMy question is specifically about the game theory of employee/employer relations, with wages as a key example, not generally "how to get enough money to survive". But of course the need to survive affects that game theory, right? Because, for example, equilibrium reasoning assumes agents with a comparable ability to coordinate (whereas managers are fewer than workers), and it assumes immortal agents (which humans aren't).
ELI12: how do libertarians want wages to work?

I'm amazed you only have 4 answers so far.

The bog-standard classical (and, yes, "libertarian") answer is that wages work exactly the same as all other prices - prices for candy bars, gasoline, houses, lawn mowing services, plumbers, and milk.

That's to say, supply and demand (sellers and buyers) set prices, same as with everything else. If buyers don't like the price, they shop around some more, settle for a lower-quality "product" that's cheaper, or offer more to get what they want. If sellers don't like what's on offer, they look for another buyer who'll ... (read more)

1TekhneMakre5moIt seems like all the countries you named have gvt enforced worker's rights, and strong gvt support for the unemployed (as well as strong non-gvt collective bargaining). That seems like a big factor to me in determining the wage equilibria, and isn't a standard part of the libertarian model, right? So my question is, what are the principles underlying what determines these equilibria.
1TAG5moRealistically, wages aren't like other prices because they are "sticky" in both directions. Employers will rarely offer a substantial increase to the remuneration of someone they've already got, and also won't reduce the salary of anyone with seniority , even if they have declined in productivity. Wages are also unlike other prices , because there is a natural minimum wage, an amount below which you can't literally survive on.
The homework assignment incentives, and why it's now so extreme

It has been more than 40 years since I personally had to deal with this BS.

The stories I hear from my children confirm what you say.  One result seems to have been students cooperating online to do homework. That seems to be impossible to police. For sure that would have been "cheating" when I was in school, but it seems there is no practical alternative for students who want to get decent grades. Perhaps peer pressure makes students try to contribute to the group effort, which might ensure that most of them learn some of the material. There may be po... (read more)

2Andrew Vlahos5moHow would students police that, exactly? Could you elaborate? Also, coordination was tried, like when I made a deal with a friend named Griffin to do a homework exchange, but parents shut that down because that's considered plagiarism and "cheating is wrong".
How can there be a godless moral world ?

"I feel like there is objective truth about why killing is bad, but I don't understand why."

I think I get that. I tried to explain "why" in my answer above. "Why" is because you're built to feel that way. For good, practical reasons.

How can there be a godless moral world ?

Your answer is in your own question - "societies that discourage murder will probably fare better than societies that promote it. I don't understand why murder is bad".

Our sense of good and evil is shaped by what helped our ancestors survive in competition with other tribes. Societies with less murder - because of people who abhor murder - fared better, resulting in descendants who also abhor murder (us).

People who didn't abhor murder didn't form societies or formed societies that were less successful, leaving behind few descendants with those instincts. P... (read more)

Experiments with a random clock

You're an unusual person. I'm glad you found something that works for you. I just learned to relish the "quiet time" that comes from being a few minutes early - use it to rest, meditate, catch up on email, read an article, whatever. Before smartphones (I'm that old) I'd carry a book with me everywhere I went - to have something to read.

8GuySrinivasan7moMM is common in finance-y things. Even people in finance who are younger than 90 years old.
The Fall of Rome: Why It's Relevant, And Why We're Mistaken

I fear you're beating up a strawman. As Gibbon makes pretty clear (and he's nothing if not the "standard narrative"), Rome rotted from the inside - politically and economically. The barbarians didn't get anywhere until Rome was practically collapsed from internal corruption.

Rome suffered an extreme case of all the standard things that modern economists write about - public choice failures, protectionism, price controls, government-backed trade monopolies, etc., etc. The political system was inherently unstable and tended to dictatorships.

The founders of th... (read more)

What do you think would be the best investment policy for a cryonics trust?

"in order for something to exist, everything must exist, eternally"

Care to explain why? The rest of your comment I understand.

1Gerald Monroe8moReferring to one theory of the universe. It's nonsense to say that it is slowly degrading to nothing and nothing is the ground state because if this is the true law of nature nothing at all would exist. So one theory is all possible consistent universes exist which means if it is possible to survive cryo you will experience it. Similar to how our existence as humans is seeing one of the universes where we are possible, we aren't seeing the others. Might be a wrong theory it's just a way to try to make sense of what doesn't really make any sense.
The best frequently don't rise to the top

Sigh. To make something work in a competitive world, you need to make it work on all the relevant metrics - at least "good enough" on all of them, and better than the competition on some of them.

Suppose you offer a product that's measured on 4 metrics (imagine: quality, speed, price, size, ease of use, beauty, weight, ...), A, B, C, D.

Some potential customers will weigh some metrics more heavily than others. Some will ignore some metrics completely. But in general you need to do at least 5/10 on all of them and better than that on some of them.

Metric A: 7/... (read more)

4adamzerner8moI agree with the general point but disagree that that's happening with Massimo, and more generally with the other examples of lack of success. I do think that's part of what happened with my startups though.
7Dagon8moYup. The modeling error here is that "quality" is a single dimension, and that it's both absolute and roughly linear in value. All three of these are false. What Dave Lindbergh is calling "metric", I'd call "dimension of value" (because the metric is an indicator of the value, not the value itself. Also, because metric implies universality, and value is relative and marginal). There are hundreds (or perhaps tens of thousands) of dimensions of value, which have different scales and weightings for different customers. As pointed out, having experts agree that one is providing the values to the critics and high-end customers that make them a top restaurateur does not correlate terribly well to those that make for popular youtube videos.
Tales From the American Medical System

Very late reply: This was a dermatologist who insisted that I had to have a separate appointment for EACH tiny mole to be removed, instead of removing several in one appointment.

I got a new dermatologist after that.

Some people are just thieves. I agree that it's rare.

Blue is Arbitrary

English has different words for those two colors, too, "blue" and "cyan". Also, I don't think "Eurocentric paint" is a thing. Paint is not an idea.

3ADifferentAnonymous9mo"Eurocentric paint" is an imprecise phrase. I first read it as meaning "traditionally-used European paints", with the implication that other cultures chose their colors based on different paints. But the rest of the post makes clear it's the idea of basing colors on paints that's allegedly Eurocentric; so the better phrasing might be "Eurocentric fixation on paint". I was taught in (US) school that the primary colors were red, yellow, and blue [] and the secondaries were green, orange and purple (which matches the 'rainbow' in the comic, though the 'rainbow' I learned was ROYGBIV). Per, [,] this only works with paint: Granted, I was taught those colors in conjunction with being given paint to play with, which is a good reason to teach them. But it's still a bit striking that at no point in my education was I taught any other set of primary colors, except implicitly by picking RGB colors in MS Paint (an ironic name, in context). I'm pretty sure that the common intuition among my classmates, way back in childhood, was that the first-tier colors were red, yellow, blue and green. This turns out to be supported by a relatively sophisticated color theory [] based neither on natural occurrences of colors nor on any means of producing colors but rather the brain's fundamental abstractions for processing them.

English has different words for those two colors, too, "blue" and "cyan".

Languages have many words, but some of them are more... native... then others. How often do non-specialists use the word? How many 10-years old kids would recognize the word?

If you ask 10-years old kids, on a sunny day, what color is sky, I believe a typical Russian kid would say "голубое", but a typical American kid would say "blue" (not "cyan"). I think so; neither is my first language.

EDIT: Also, put "blue sky" in Google Translate. Then do a reverse translation; it's "blue sky" aga... (read more)

"Cyan" isn't a basic color term in English; English speakers ordinarily consider cyan to be a variant of blue, not something basically separate. Something that is cyan could also be described in English as "blue". As opposed to say, red and pink -- these are both basic color terms in English; an English speaker would not ordinarily refer to something pink as "red", or vice versa.

Or in other words: Color words don't refer to points in color space, they refer to regions, which means that you can look at how those regions overlap -- some may be subsets of o... (read more)

How can I protect my bank account from large, surprise withdrawals?

Don't go around handing out blank checks, and you won't have to worry that someone will fill in a huge amount and try to cash it.

Really, that's what the people in Texas did - they explicitly signed up to a deal where the price per kWh could change without limit, and pre-agreed to pay whatever the rate was.

Because in theory on average it would be cheaper.

It's kind of like selling fire insurance - sure, you get this nice steady stream of premiums. But every once in a while, unpredictably, a house burns down and you have to pay for it.

It's fine to do that if ... (read more)

4Maxwell Peterson9moYour answer uses a fair amount of analysis and knowledge in order to avoid this kind of large charge. Maybe perversely, I was asking for methods that do not require analysis or knowledge about contract types. I also doubt that most customers of the Texas company had a good sense of the risk they were exposing themselves too - many might have followed the "scan list for lowest rate, then pick that one" method that I use sometimes.
What does flow feel like for "mental activities"?

For me, it's being completely focused on a task. To the extent that the task occupies all of my short-term memory, leaving nothing for anything else distracting. 

This is, I think, why it's annoying to be disturbed while in the flow state. The whole house of cards falls down when a disturbance occurs (example: the phone rings) while in flow - something necessarily gets tossed out of short-term memory to accommodate the interruption. 

Is there an academic consensus around Rent Control?

Even for a fairness argument, it seems hard to justify the rent subsidy (the difference between market rent and controlled rents) coming out of the pockets of landlords, vs. the public treasury.

Why pick on landlords?

3Dagon10moIt's an important point to remember, for this and other policy evaluations (labor unions come to mind), that it's very rare to find a serious academic who will say "good" or "bad" in a vacuum. The questions are "how much" and "under what conditions". In environments with long-established and slow-to-change property ownership, and a history of tenant maltreatment, interventions like rent control and eviction limits and enforced mediation before court are perhaps necessary to solve problems. In environments where it's pretty easy to enter and exit the rental market, and tenants have a bit of power because empty units suck, probably less regulation keeps things moving. And, of course, in the real world where government causes a shortage by preventing creation of housing, and it's hard to become a landlord because of all the regulation, and as a result tenants are mistreated because there are many more of them than spots available, there is no good answer. Rent control is the wrong tool to address a supply problem.
2Stuart Anderson10mo-
2Fillipe Feitosa10moFrom a Rawlsian "justice as fairness" perspective, it would be reasonable to cripple landlords profits, considering that they are wealthier, and therefore, this inequality would be "just" according to Rawls second justice principle. This reasoning would only be valid IF the landlord is wealthier than the person who rents.
7Ericf10moSure. I'm not qualified to actually make the arguments, as I don't have any background or history in the topic. But even those without specific domain knowledge can still throw a flag when we see a potential structural issue, like a one-sided framing of a question.
Efficiency Wages: A Double-Edged Sword

Yes. This is an argument for paying legislators nothing. New Hampshire has the second largest legislature on the the planet. The pay for members of the NH House of Representatives is $100/year, plus mileage. (it's not a full-time job). 

New Hampshire is a pretty well-run place.

And for paying bureaucrats, esp. senior ones, more. Far more. In Singapore the PM is paid $3M/year, cabinet ministers $2.5M/year ( Lower level bureaucrats are paid like corporate managers with similar scale of responsibility (they don't have large numbers of these people, but the ones they do have are very competent).

Singapore is a pretty well run-place.

The Rise and Fall of American Growth: A summary

See (Where is my Flying Car?, J. Storrs Hall) on this - I find his take on it dead-on.

Hall says growth in energy use per capita flatlined, and that happened mostly because established industries rigged the system to keep themselves on top, and stifled new technologies in a snarl of red tape and regulation. (For the greater good, of course. </snark>)

I think about half of Gordon's policy RXs are wise, the other half deeply unwise. To the extent public policy has anything to do with g... (read more)

6waveman1yBy coincidence I recently calculated per-capita energy use in the USA in 1970 and now. Basically there is no change. Not surprising considering the huge increase in energy costs at around that time. So I agree with the above post. When you consider the very strong correlation between energy and GDP - across countries and across time - the stagnation ceases to be a mystery. Computers don't use very much energy in comparison to things like cars so they are the one exception. There is a view that renewables technology will be "too cheap to meter". As far as I can tell this is completely wrong. You need to look at the entire energy system not just household electricity on during a sunny daytime in summer. To replace it with renewables will, in my estimation, without a huge unexpected breakthrough in battery technology, be far more expensive and possibly not even possible. Sticking with fossil fuels will not work due to depletion. Nuclear same problem, unless you accept breeder reactors and massive nuclear proliferation.
4jasoncrawford1yYes, I'm about a third of the way through Where Is My Flying Car? and it's amazing. Fascinating and spot-on IMO.
1RyanCarey1yGiven that the policies are never going to be reverted, maybe better questions would be: which of the policies were the ones that mattered, are any of them political feasible, and if none of them are feasible in the US, then where?

Every policy proposal needs to be compared to the status quo and not to some utopian ideal.

It seems likely that a well-designed UBI would be vastly more efficient than our existing hodgepodge of welfare and other subsidies for the poor. It would eliminate the overhead of figuring out who should receive them and limiting fraud, and eliminate the disincentives to productivity that we have in place now. Neither is a small gain.

A UBI might also go some way toward settling our vast political bifurcation, by making people feel the world is a bit more "fair".

An i... (read more)

Should some variant of longtermism identify as a religion?

Religion is symbiotic to humans - that's how it has persisted for millennia, despite being factually mistaken about many important things. Some of us get along fine without it, but we seem to be a minority.

It would be great to have something honest to fill the niche taken by religion, including community, moral guidance, and making people feel better about their lives. I would be willing to donate some money toward the project.

Most religions involve an afterlife - without that the "religion niche" may not be filled. One truthful way to offer... (read more)

The principle of no non-Apologies

"I'm sorry" is often used as an expression of sympathy - no relation to any apology.

Them: "My mom got cancer"

You: "I'm so sorry!"

(sorry for them, not sorry for anything you did)

2moderock1yI've made it a point to build up a set of phrases that allow me to express sympathy, and which have the advantage of being clearly visible expressions, rather than hollow tokens. For example: "Your mom got cancer? That's a bad deal. Make it a point to spend as much time with her as you can. What can I do to help?"
6G Gordon Worley III2yYeah, this is slightly annoying that we have this idiom. And unfortunately people sometimes take an expression of sympathy said as "I'm sorry" as an apology which makes them respond to what you literally said rather than the intent, sort of like if you said "bless you" after someone sneezed and they asked "oh, are you a priest?" or "no thanks, I'm an atheist". I think the intent of "I'm sorry" here is to say "I regret this is happening to you" along with some combination of "I feel sorrow at hearing this new". Still, it's confusing. My general policy is to try to avoid saying "I'm sorry" to mean "I sympathize with you" and go for something more direct like "that sucks" or "oh no" or just a wordless expression of sympathy through body language, although sometimes I say it anyway. Language is tough sometimes!
3agentydragon2yYou're right, that didn't occur to me to mention. (My native language separate idioms for that use.)
Book Review: Narconomics

To the degree that that cocaine business (like any honest business) creates value, there's some truth in that. But most of the value is in the high that the customers get when they consume it - it doesn't create much *economic* value. Except to whatever extent the cocaine makes users more productive (it's a stimulant, as is caffeine).

But the "subsidy" mostly comes from other inner-city residents - for the most part, they're the customers (obviously some outsiders come into town to buy, but I suspect that's a small fractio... (read more)

3Jay2yI suspect that "outsiders" form a bigger part of the overall demand than you think, and that the business transfers considerable(1) amounts of currency to the inner cities from places like Wall Street and Hollywood (and other more affluent areas). Which isn't to say that it's not part of the structures keeping the underclass down(2); it's possible to be dependent for one's livelihood on things that are bad for you. (1) considerable by inner city standards, much less so by Wall Street standards (2) I'm not sure to what extent we should view society as "keeping the underclass down" vs. "trying, and mostly failing, to lift the underclass up". Your points about the Nixon-era policies are taken, but that was 50 years ago and only part of the story.
Book Review: Narconomics

Cocaine is a stimulant, so wouldn't that make users *more* productive?

And if it were legal, it would be cheap, so no "crimes to get their next hit". Despite heavy taxation, the (significant) social harm from alcohol and tobacco doesn't come from crime.

COVID-19 - a good or bad time for extended travel?

Life is risk. Go.

Just be prepared - financially and in terms of other commitments - to be delayed by quarantine, etc.

If giving unsolicited feedback was a social norm, what feedback would you often give?

"You are spending more money than you can afford.

This will result in unnecessary stress and misery in your life.

You will be happier in the long run if you reduce your standard of living to a level that's easily sustainable for you and put the remainder of your money into a substantial financial buffer for yourself."

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
-- Charles Dickens, from David Copperfield

1MoritzG2y"This will result in unnecessary stress and misery in your life." LOL, that is very close to what I told a girl once. You would think it is the most sensitive and reasonable thing to tell a person and a good way to put it. She did not call me names, but was not thankful either.
A letter on optimism about human progress


a) Yes, it is, but that's the point of it. And the viewpoint seems self-justified to me.

b) The article makes no claim that "progress" is continuous or smooth or monotonically increasing, or that it doesn't suffer setbacks. The point is that *in spite* of setbacks, civilization has experienced net progress and there appears to be reason to expect that to continue - in the long run.

c) Yes, but there's a feedback loop at work. The more that problems create pain for people, the more people focus resources and attention on find... (read more)

Doing things in a populated world

You should read Richard Epstien's _Takings_

It's all about this. He makes a lot of insightful points - we could be improving things far more than we do now, if only we could pay the losers to stop opposing the changes.

Rent Needs to Decrease

I'd think that at some point before now, the super-high profits to be made from renting apartments would create political pressure to allow building more housing - after all, developers want to get more of that lovely profit.

But, it seems, no.

Same thing (even worse) has happened in the Bay Area - insane rents, yet no political will to permit building more housing.

Seems strange.

4jefftk2yCA did just pass AB 68 + SB 13 + AB 881, which requires municipalities to allow people with single family homes to build up to two accessory dwelling units: []
How to navigate through contradictory (health/fitness) advice?

We are evolved animals. Set your expectations reasonably. Don't expect miracle cures, esp. if you're past the usual age of reproduction. Be skeptical of those promising miracle cures.

Esp. as we get older, there are lots of things we need to learn to live with, and suffer with. Embrace mild ameliorations, like ibuprofen and (small doses of!!) opiates.

Our bodies are reasonably well adapted to the kinds of things our ancestors in the state of nature had to do on a daily basis. Try to do more of those (lots of mild exercises like walking, some occasi... (read more)

In physical eschatology, is Aestivation a sound strategy?

With all due respect to the first set of authors, I wouldn't argue with Charles Bennett on the subject of thermodynamics.

Tales From the American Medical System

I've been thru this same thing with doctors.

One, after being pressed with "why?" repeatedly, fessed up.

They get paid for each office visit. The way they make money is to force patients to visit the office periodically, on pain of having necessary prescriptions cut off.

I'm not talking about narcotics or controlled substances here. (For those, the DEA really does force the MDs to see the patient in person for each prescription.)

You have a greedy doctor. He thinks he's only cheating the insurance company (cheating by demanding needless office visits) but of course everybody pays for that. And your time is worth something, surely.

My advice: Get another doctor.

I don’t think it’s necessarily greed.

Your doctor may be on a system where they are responsible for doing work for you (e.g. refilling your prescriptions, doing whatever insurance paperwork it takes to make your prescriptions go through, keeping track of when you need to get certain tests, etc) without receiving any compensation except when you come in for office visits. One patient like this isn’t so bad. Half your caseload like this means potentially hours of unpaid labor every day. Even if an individual doctor is willing to do this, high-level decision-m... (read more)


I thought that was a possibility but I didn't think it was too likely.

Don't they have enough money already? I've always been confused about people who are already extremely wealthy acting so greedily. Eg. CEOs. You already have a ton of money, the extra money can't mean that much to you because of diminishing marginal utility stuff, why hurt other people in pursuit of more? Is it that they compare themselves to others around them and want to have more than their friends? Is the pursuit of more just a habit?