DonGeddis

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Living in an Inadequate World

"But raising nominal prices is economically useless" No, that's not true. Raising nominal prices helps with sticky wages & debts. Failing to raise nominal prices causes recession, unemployment, and bankruptcies.

"the healthy inflation" That phrase doesn't refer to anything. "Healthy" isn't a modifier that applies to "inflation". There is only one single thing: the change in the overall price level. There aren't "healthy" and "non-healthy" versions of that one thing.

"One could add 000 behind each prices number" No, you're likely thinking of a different hypothetical, something like an overnight currency devaluation. In those cases, wage and debt contracts are simultaneously converted from the "old peso" into the "new peso". That's a very, very different macroeconomic event. "Printing money", on the other hand, changes the prices of goods ... but sticky wage and debt contracts are unaffected (and thus devalued). It is exactly the fact that only some but not all prices are changed by central bank money printing, that causes "raising nominal prices" to have an effect on the real economy. (Exactly as you suggest, if all prices changed simultaneously, the real economy would be unaffected. It's important to understand that central bank money printing is very different.)

Living in an Inadequate World

You mostly seem to be noticing that there is a difference between the nominal economy (the numbers on the prices), and the real economy (what resources you can buy with currency). That's certainly true - but actually beside the point. Because the point is that inflation (actually, NGDP) below trend, causes "business-cycle" recessions. The reason is that many contracts (wages, debts) are written in nominal terms, and so when the value of the Unit of Account (function of money) changes in an unexpected way, these fixed nominal contracts don't adjust quickly enough. The result is disequilibrium, rising unemployment and bankruptcies, etc. The fix is to keep nominal prices rising on trend.

Having exchange rates fall, or gold or asset prices rise, is an independent thing. It only matters if the currency begins to be abandoned (as you suggest with dollar prices in Russia), and especially if wage and debt contracts begin to be written in a different Unit of Account. It is stability in the value of the Unit of Account which affects macroeconomic stability.

Summary: "printing money could increase prices" is the whole point, and it doesn't matter if "prices fall in a harder currency" or there is "deflation in gold and bitcoin prices". As long as the local currency is the Unit of Account, then changes in the value of the local currency (aka local currency aggregate demand) are what matter.

Undiscriminating Skepticism

There is zero net evidence that IQ correlates with skin tone.

That's not true at all. There is overwhelming evidence that performance on IQ tests is hugely correlated with "race", which basically implies skin tone. Blacks, as a group, score 10-15 points below whites (almost a standard deviation), and (some) Asians and Jews are about half a deviation above whites.

The controversy is not whether there is correlation. The controversy is over the casual explanation. How much of this observed difference is due to genetics, how much due to environment, and how much due to the structure of standard IQ tests?

Mainstream science either holds that there is no genetic component or that the question is unresolved.

Just to clarify: the question is whether there is a genetic component to the observed difference in black/white (and other racial) group IQ scores.

There is clearly a genetic component to individual IQ scores.

This varies based on wealth. Among poor/impoverished peoples, variance in IQ scores is something like 60-90% due to environmental factors (like nutrition). Among wealthy peoples, 60-70% seems to be genetic.

The usual analogy is the height of growing corn. In nutrient-poor dirt, corn height is mostly a function of how much fertilizer/water/sun the plants get. But in well-tended farms, corn stalk height is almost completely a function of inherited genetics.

Open Thread: April 2010

A "Jedi"? Obi-Wan Kenobi?

I wonder if you mean old Ben Kenobi. I don't know anyone named Obi-Wan, but old Ben lives out beyond the dune sea. He's kind of a strange old hermit.

Let There Be Light

Bostrom and Sandberg (in your linked paper) suggest three reasons why we might want to change the design that evolution gave us:

  • Changed tradeoffs. We no longer live in the ancestral environment.
  • Value discordance. Evolution's goal may not match our own.
  • Evolutionary restrictions. We might have tools that were not available to evolution.

On #2, I'll note that evolution designed humans as temporary vessels, for the goal of propagating genes. Not, for example, for the goal of making you happy. You may prefer to hijack evolution's design, in service of your own goals, rather than in service of your gene's reproduction.

Lots of evolution's adaptations (including many of the biases we discuss) are good for the propagation of the genes, at the cost of being bad for the individual human who suffers the bias. A self-aware human may wish to choose to reverse that tradeoff.

Living Luminously

introspection can't be scientific by definition

What you observe via introspection, is not accessible to third parties, yes.

But you use those observations to build models of yourself. Those models can be made explicit and communicated to others. And they make predictions about your future behavior, so they can be tested.

Undiscriminating Skepticism

Most people's moral gut reactions say that humans are very important, and everything else much less so. This argument is easier to make "objective" if humans are the only things with everlasting souls.

Once you get rid of souls, making the argument that humans have some special moral place in the world becomes much more difficult. It's probably an argument that is beyond the reach of the average person. After all, in the space of "things that one can construct out of atoms", humans and goldfish are very, very close.

Undiscriminating Skepticism

Is an abortion an "ok if regrettable practice?" You've just assumed the answer is always yes, under any circumstances.

Sorry, you have a point that my test won't apply to every rationalist.

The contrast I meant was: if you look at the world population, and ask how many people believe in atheism, materialism, and that abortion is not morally wrong, you'll find a significant minority. (Perhaps you yourself are not in that group.)

But if you then try to add "believes that infanticide is not morally wrong", your subpopulation will drop to basically zero.

But, rationally, the gap between the first three beliefs, and the last one, is relatively small. Purely on the basis of rationality, you ought to expect a smaller dropoff than we in fact see. Hence, most people in the first group are avoiding the repugnant conclusion for non-rational reasons. (Or believing in the first three, for non-rational reasons.)

If you personally don't agree with the first three premises, then perhaps this test isn't accurate for you.

Undiscriminating Skepticism

Your parenthetical comment is the funniest thing I've read all day! The contrast with the seriousness of subject matter is exquisite. (You're of course right about the marginal cases thing too.)

Undiscriminating Skepticism

Proposed litmus test: infanticide.

General cultural norms label this practice as horrific, and most people's gut reactions concur. But a good chunk of rationality is separating emotions from logic. Once you've used atheism to eliminate a soul, and humans are "just" meat machines, and abortion is an ok if perhaps regrettable practice ... well, scientifically, there just isn't all that much difference between a fetus a couple months before birth, and an infant a couple of months after.

This doesn't argue that infants have zero value, but instead that they should be treated more like property or perhaps like pets (rather than like adult citizens). Don't unnecessarily cause them to suffer, but on the other hand you can choose to euthanize your own, if you wish, with no criminal consequences.

Get one of your friends who claims to be a rationalist. See if they can argue passionately in favor of infanticide.

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