Musk on AGI Timeframes

Warning: segment contains Colbert's version of the basilisk.

April 2014 Media Thread

I have to agree with Sanderson's first law. One reason I liked HPMOR more than the original Harry Potter was the transition from soft magic to hard (rule-based, well-explained) magic.

April 2014 Media Thread

How Politics Makes Us Stupid

Ezra Klein's version of Politics is the Mind-Killer.

Yet more "stupid" questions

"smart characters that win"

Miles Vorkosigan saga, Ender's Game, anything by Neal Stephenson.

New Monthly Thread: Bragging

Got my dissertation proposal approved.

First paragraph: This dissertation continues the tradition of identifying the unintended consequences of the US health insurance system. Its main contribution is to estimate the size of the distortions caused by the employer-based system and regulations intended to fix it, while using methods that are more novel and appropriate than those of previous work.

Q for GiveWell: What is GiveDirectly's mechanism of action?

The most relevant field here is International Monetary Economics.

After TAing a class on the subject, I became convinced that most people (including economists) would be better off ignoring money most of the time, and just following where the goods went. So think of this as a transfer of $1000 worth of goods from the US to Kenya.

You could get the official answer with an IS-LM-BP model and some masochism.

More seriously, this does make me want to look into theoretical work on the macroeconomics of charity. On the empirical side, the best evidence is that even average (poorly targeted and managed) foreign aid has positive effects on country-level growth.

The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

While I agree with almost all of the antifaq (the general point is apparently more plausible to economists than non-economists), this is pretty misleading:

"The future cannot be a cause of the past."

True, but human expectations about the future can be very important in the present. If you expect that 5 years from now FAI will take over, you won't bother to make many long-term investments like building factories and training new workers.

The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

"Shorter work weeks didn't just happen. It took a huge amount of effort from unions, which were a lot more powerful then than they are now." I've never understood why people find this story compelling, precisely because of your final clause. If unions were the main force determining hours, why have hours continued to go down now that unions have been drastically weakened?

The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

"Groups of workers with higher status get paid better." True. But what is the main direction of causation here?

According to basic economics, workers will get paid their marginal product (how much you add to production). This is a pretty good first approximation. Of course, you can get paid in many ways- money, flexible hours, even status. The higher the status of a job the less it needs to pay to attract workers; this is called a compensating differential. High-level politicians are very high-status but don't make that much. Conversely, very low-status jobs (like janitor or garbageman) have to pay a bit more in money wages to get people to work.

The Robots, AI, and Unemployment Anti-FAQ

"a normal effect of recessions is for productivity to increase; businesses lay off workers and then try to figure out how to run their operation more efficiently with less workers, that happens in every recession"

This is not true. In fact, the normal effect is the opposite- a productivity decrease. See the data for the US after 1948 here.

If you are looking for a story as to why, in some business cycle theories (such as Real Business Cycle Theory) the recession is caused by a negative shock to productivity.

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