All of Froolow's Comments + Replies

Here is a rough cost-benefit analysis. I found all the numbers before doing any maths and tried to be as optimistic as possible towards your theory to account for people more intelligent than me coming up with better ways to do it if it became standardised.

The cost of freezing a cell is proxied as the cost of freezing your eggs, which is already commercially available. It is £2900 for the initial harvest and £275 for a subsequent year of freezing. This £275 is not discounted because you pay it every year. Source. Let's assume that the clinic are nice and l... (read more)

Realistically, I would expect that having your own cells frozen probably brings more benefits on average than being able to get an organ donation. Organs are in short supply. If they were abundant, doctors would give them to more people, increasing your p given above. Still, if organs were free and 100% immunocompatible, many things would still be a problem. E.g. cancer.
That's great! thanks so much for doing this. Also in the future we may take blood transfusions from our younger selves, since apparently this is already helping some rats now. Besides getting new organs and blood, anyone can think of another advantage of having cells frozen in the future?

I really enjoyed the article, but I think your argument falls down in the following way:

1) Fission / fusion are the best energy sources we know of, but we can't yet do it for all forms of matter

2) A sufficiently clever and motivated intelligence probably could do it for all forms of matter, because it looks to be thermodynamically possible

3) (Implicit premise) In between now and the creation of a galaxy-hopping superintelligence with the physical nouse to fusion / fission at least the majority of matter in its path, there will be no more efficient forms of... (read more)

They are slightly different, but in practical terms they describe the same error; sensitivity and specificity are properties of a test while Type I and II errors are properties of a system, but both errors are basically saying, "Our test is not perfectly accurate so if we want to catch more people with a disease we need to misdiagnose more people"

To illustrate the distinction, consider a test which is 90% sensitive and 90% specific in a population of 100 where a disease has a 50% prevelance. This means 50 people have the disease, of which the tes... (read more)

I agree with everything you've said, but I would point out that I already allow myself to be tracked by Google, so the true cost is only the difference between the 'badness' of Google and Microsoft.

Don't worry about the tone, opportunity cost is that hinterland where it is too complicated to explain to someone who doesn't get it in one sentence, but too fundamental not to need to talk about so it is very difficult to judge tone when you're not sure whether you can assume familiarity with economic concepts.

It sounds to me like we basically agree - the cost of switching search engine is ten minutes (assumption) and this pays off about 50 cents a day for forever (assumption). This makes cutting off the analysis at one year arbitrary, which I agree with.... (read more)

Why not? Genuine question, because my job is pretty much nothing but cost-benefit analysis of fixed-cost projects which pay off a small amount every year, and the calculation you describe as 'not how you do cost-benefit analysis' is almost exactly how I would do a cost-benefit analysis of this kind (although I wouldn't phrase it as $1200 / hour because that's clunky, I'd probably talk about a percentage return on investment). I rate the probability that I am wrong here as extremely small, but if I am wrong I really need to hear it, and have the problem exp... (read more)

Well, if we were to approach this seriously, there a few more factors in play. On the benefits side you need to estimate the expected length of time that this scheme will be operational. It's not just GoodSearch being around, it also them continuing to offer the same rate (and the price of generic eyeballs has been going down since as far back as I can remember and shows no signs of stopping) while providing adequate service. You also need to figure out the appropriate discount rate since $1 in 2040 is quite different from $1 in 2014. On the costs side you need to estimate how many additional reconfigurations you might need (browsers change, config files become corrupted, etc. etc.). Also, every time you find find a particular Bing search inadequate and need to re-search using Google, that's more time cost which could easily swamp the initial 10-minute estimate. If you believe the Bing search to be inferior to Google you should also include the opportunity costs of missing something important without realizing it. More importantly, you need to realize what the main cost is -- it's not reconfiguration time, it's you allowing yourself to be tracked by Bing, etc. (that's what the advertisers are actually paying for). That cost is hard to estimate and probably depends on the individual, but it exists and ignoring it is unwise. P.S. By the way, it turns out Goodsearch doesn't donate 1c/search. It donates 50% of its revenue -- that's quite a different thing.
OK. First of all, super-kudos for this response, and I apologise if I've come across as uncivil, which I probably have. I don't have a problem with your reasoning that, all other things being equal, earning some money for charity for what you'd ordinarily do is better than earning no money for charity for what you'd ordinarily do. I have a problem with how you appraise the value of ten minutes of work. So, your reasoning: * It will take ten minutes to change your search settings * Changing your search settings will earn 50 cents a day for charity * Over one year, that's ~$130 * That's ~$130 { in the implicit context of one year } for ten minutes work * There's nothing else you can do in the next ten minutes that will earn $130 { context-free } * Therefore rather than working a marginal ten minutes you're best off changing your search settings Why one year? This seems a completely arbitrary selection, and yet it absolutely determines the value you're comparing to your opportunity cost, (which in your worked example you specify in $/hour, so not in the context of one year). You could specify five years as your time-horizon and your expected value for that ten minutes would be huge, or two hours and it would be tiny. Fundamentally, the money is generated by future search activity, and even though this search activity is "free" in the sense that it's happening anyway, it's not actually free for purposes of cost-benefit analysis (it still carries an opportunity cost), and you still need to consider it as an input, otherwise you have no reference for the time horizon over which you generate outputs. It is in this context that I consider it ineffective. Just because the output is generated by effort you're already exerting does not mean this effort is being used efficiently. Does that make sense?

I think there is a problem in how we are using the word 'ineffective'. I think you are using the word to mean 'very small absolute amounts' whereas I am using the word to mean something like 'low opportunity cost : return ratio'. I think looking at the cost : return ratio is fairer, and I also think 'very small absolute amount' is misleading.

I did 46 searches on my work computer yesterday, and probably a handful more on mobile devices. Say 50 for the sake of argument, or $0.50. Over a year this is $130 dollars if I make no searches at weekends. I agree wit... (read more)

I am using it in the context of a rate of return on effort. So are you, though I'd politely describe your definition as "bespoke". The way both you and the OP are evaluating the decision is not how you do cost-benefit analysis. If you treat the ten minute setup time as the only input, and project arbitrarily into the future by discounting inputs you're already doing, you can value that ten minutes to ludicrous levels which you clearly shouldn't be reasoning with. The OP in fact does this by observing that after two years of GoodSearching, they will have returns of $1200 / hour. For evaluation purposes, you can't keep dining out on the same ten minutes. This isn't to say people shouldn't do what the OP is suggesting. If you want to, knock your socks off. Just don't go round telling people that by 2040 you'll have earned $16,000 per hour for charity. [Edited for a stray "concrete" which shouldn't have been there]

I don't understand why you think it is a grossly ineffective way to earn money for charity. Please could you explain why you think this is?

Because it's just capturing a small subset of your personal contribution to advertising revenue, which is tiny in the first place. You would not (I hope) consider funding something you actually cared about (rent, food on the table, credit card bills, etc.) by a similar mechanism. This is in part because it's grossly inefficient at monetising your effort. It's certainly not, as the OP claims, $600/hour in any meaningful sense. The only thing it has going for it is that you're carrying out that effort anyway.

I think - though I'm not certain - that you are right that in all but the most marginal seats you'd never find a politically unafiliated / passionate about a political issue group large enough to swing a seat. I don't think that implies that you shouldn't try to game democracy though - there are certain known flaws in the democratic system we have which exist (and swing elections) independently of whether people knowingly exploit them or not.

I think that's certainly an interesting idea - NHS-homeopathy could be even cheaper than what is currently provided (comissioning the services off a private homeopathy provider) because we could do it in bulk - the raw ingredients aren't expensive at all. I'd worry about the indirect cost of moving the Overton Window though - at the moment we STRONGLY advise people not to use homeopathy even for trivial conditions, and we mock those that promote it. Even so, many people still use it and swear by its efficacy. If we moved to a situation where we promoted ho... (read more)

I certainly don't disagree with your analysis, but I think I might not have been clear enough with the endgame of this potential strategy; I don't think this is a good strategy to succeed as a minor party, because no matter how virtuous you make transhumanism sound, people are always going to care more about the economy or defence. But I think you can probably find enough people who care more about transhumanism than they do about the marginal difference between the economic policy of the two main parties. So the 'transhuman' party will never get off the g... (read more)

So supposing my objective is to successfully express the pro-transhumanism cause in the government. We have already discussed "Is it possible to start a new party along these lines?" We have recognized because transhumanism even accepted by the populous is a "lesser virtue" therefore if it the central virtue of said new party the new party will remain a minor actor on the political scene. When viewing the political situation without bias as a pragmatic man the question then arises "can I subvert a major party to my ends?" We recognize that the major parties have the strength we need. Therefore we need to figure out what sort of pressure and incentives we need to encourage the main party to behave the way we desire. In these calculations we of course must ensure we pick a major player whose primary virtues do not come in conflict with our desired virtue. Of course this still asks how can this be done? The first obvious step of course is to target the voting population that said party depends upon and instill the desired virtue in them. That of course creates a whole new set of problems! How DOES one change a group of people's moral compass? Even a minor change can be hard.

I think both of you are incorrect. This leverages a specific flaw in the FPTP system which wouldn't work in a PR system that gives a small, tightly coordinated group in a swing seat a disproportionate amount of power. Insofar as both political parties and lobby groups can exist in a PR system, this cannot be either of those things since it could not exist in a PR system.

More specifically, it is not a political party because (amongst other things) it has no general platform and does not seek to acquire power. It is also not a lobby group because it doesn't ... (read more)

Most successful groups actually exercise influence through get-out-the-vote. That is, instead of having 60% of people who favor candidate X anyways to vote, they get 80% to vote and change the minds of 5% of people favoring candidate Y, within the single-issue group. The result is still a large impact; the NRA is very successful at this, and combined with it's legal and policy work, substantially influences national legislation. The NRA is HUGE and well-coordinated, and by most reasonable measures has "won" it's policy battles consistently. Targeting close districts is also an old strategy, but targeting primaries can produce higher yields since people are more amenable to switching votes between candidates within their favored party than to abandoning their party.
Names don't matter much here. The basic idea is to pressure a political candidate by promising him a voting block which you assert you can deliver and that is entirely standard operating procedure in contemporary democracies. It's very commonly done by unions in municipal elections, for example.

I don't disagree I was grasping at straws for some of the more outlandish suggestions, but this was deliberate - to try and explore the full boundaries of the strategy space. So I take most of your criticism in the constructive spirit in which it was intended, but I do think maybe you are a bit confused about 'philosophical preservation' (no doubt I explained it very badly to avoid using the word 'religion'). My point is not that you convince yourself, "I will live forever because all life is meaningless and hence death is the same as life", it i... (read more)

I didn't know that. Fair enough, seems likely 'signal preservation' is much more costly than I originally realised and not worth pursuing (I think the likelihood of revivification is the same or better than cryonics, but the cost in terms of hours spent tapping at a keyboard is basically more than any human could pay in one lifetime)

This is an excellent comment, and it is extremely embarrassing for me that in a post on the plausible 'live forever' strategy space I missed three extremely plausible strategies for living forever, all of which are approximately complementary to cryonics (unless they're successful, in which case; why would you bother). I'd like to take this as evidence that many eyes on the 'live forever' problem genuinely does result in utility increase, but I think it is a more plausible explanation that I'm not very good at visualising the strategy space!

I basically agree with you that the strategy seems pretty unlikely. But I think you are over-harsh on it; you don't need to reconstruct the entire brain, just the stuff that deals with personal identity. If you can select from any one of thirty keys on your keyboard then every ten letters you type has 10^15 bits of entropy, so it seems possible that if somebody knew absolutely everything about the state you were in when typing they could reconstruct you just from this. You are also not restricted to tapping away randomly - I suspect words or sentences woul... (read more)

A little less than 50 bits of entropy, actually, if you're choosing truly randomly. Total entropy of a sequence scales additively with additional choices, not multiplicatively: four coin tosses generate four bits of entropy. 50 bits is enough to specify an option from a space of around 10^15, but the configuration space of those 10^10-11 neurons in the human brain is vastly larger than that.
You assume that keystrokes are independent from each other. They aren't. They don't. You probably get a lot more relevant information about yourself by using various QS tools like MyBasis. I personally didn't get a MyBasis but I have preordered Angel. My Anki review data pile, produces a bunch of information about my brain state that's of much higher quality than random keyboard typing. Anki data in addition to heart rate data from Angel tells you which Anki cards produced hypothalamic reactions.

I think the plausibility of the arguments depends in a very great part on how plausible you think cryonics is; since the average on this site is about 22%, I can see how other strategies which are low likelihood/high payoff might appear almost not worth considering. On the other hand, something like 'simulationist' preservation seems to me to be well within two orders of magnitude of the probability of cryonics - both rely on society finding your information and deciding to do something with it, and both rely on the invention of technology which appears lo... (read more)

something like 'simulationist' preservation seems to me to be well within two orders of magnitude of the probability of cryonics - both rely on society finding your information and deciding to do something with it

I don't know if I agree with your estimate of the relative probabilities, but I admit that I exaggerated slightly to make my point. I agree that this strategy at least worth thinking about, especially if you think it is at all plausible that we are in a simulation. Something along these lines is the only one of the listed strategies that I thou... (read more)

I'm not sure I agree with your analysis of the first - it is reasonable to assume that when a person generates pseudorandom noise they are masking a 'signal' with some amount of true randomness; we don't know enough to say for absolute certain that the input is totally garbage and we have good reason to believe people are actually very bad at generating random numbers. Contrast that to - for example - the fact that we have pretty good reasons to think that bringing someone back from the dead is a hard project and I don't think you're fairly applying the same criteria across preservation methods.

My take on it wouldn't be so much that it's unlikely to contain meaningful information as that it's unlikely to contain enough meaningful information. Whatever (almost certainly very bad) PRNG function you're implementing when you type out random strings, it's not going to leak more than a bit of brain state per bit of output, and most likely very much less than that. Humans have tens of billions of neurons and up to about 10^15 synapses; even under stupidly optimistic assumptions about neurological information storage and state sampling, getting all of that out would take many lifetimes' worth of typing.
A cryo frozen brain contains magnitudes of information. Even if we can't revive it directly we could slice it and scan it for much of the information. On the other hand the randomly hacking on a keyboard might reveal a few patterns but those patterns don't tell you how billions of neurons are connected with each other.

This is very true. I agonised about including a, 'Structure your life in such a way that your minimise the probability of a death which destroys your brain' option, but decided in the end that a pedant could argue that such a change to your lifestyle might decrease your total lifetime utility and so isn't worth it for certain probabilities of cryonics' success.

I'm surprised nobody has posted about finding the speed of light with a chocolate bar and a microwave, because I find that absolutely mindblowing.

The basic experiment is to take the turntable out of the microwave and put in the chocolate, nuke it for a couple of seconds until part of the chocolate starts melting and then measure the distance between the melting patches. If you have a standard microwave, you'll be on a frequency of 2.45 GHz (you can check this online or in the manual). Multiply the distance between the spots by 2,450,000,000 (or whatever th... (read more)

This is actually a really good example of what I wanted. I think I have a lot of reason to believe v = f lambda -- It follows pretty much from the definition of "wave" and "wavelength". And I think I can check the frequency of my microwave without any direct assumptions about the speed of light, using an oscilloscope or somesuch.

While on the one hand I completely agree with you given your starting premises, I don't necessarily think we're in quite the zero information situation you describe. For example, it is pretty well accepted (even amongst people who don't think cryo will work) that simply freezing yourself without cryopreservant lowers your chance of revivification. This is a pretty important consensus since cryopreservant is highly toxic, but we extrapolate from current trends and conclude, "Curing poisoning is probably an easier task than reconstructing information de... (read more)

I didn't describe a zero information situation. Note that I said "you are told some of the rules but not all of them." How is this different from knowing some of the rules but not all of them? I would agree that this is probably a good strategy but I would not categorize it as "highly refined."

You could try signalling that unless they trade with you you'll put them at a disadvantage. Consider - "Player 1, both you and Player 2 want this property. This property for one of your properties is a fair swap that benefits both of us, but if you turn me down I'll trade it to Player 2 for their best offer, which benefits Player 2 a lot and me only a little. Player 2, if you don't give me even the small amount I ask for, I'll randomly give it to some other player." If you signal credibly (ie you actually do it if someone calls your bluff) then P... (read more)

I'm not sure I completely agree with you, but I'd argue that is exactly the sort of discussion which I am surprised is not already happening. Consider:

  • I should not make myself an appealing target for resurrection, because I am likely to receive the procedure in the most 'pre-alpha' form


  • I should make myself the most appealing target for ressurection possible; history shows that if a procedure is expensive or difficult (like going to the moon) it is usually only done infrequently until technology catches up with ambition. The longer I am frozen,
... (read more)
Short of being responsible for a major genocide or something, I think it's staggeringly unlikely that anything you do in your day-to-day life will affect your chances of getting unfrozen, should you choose to follow the cryonics route. Consider a silly but analogous situation: while laying the foundation for a new monument in Atlanta, Georgia, builders break into an underground vault containing the bodies of a team of Egyptologists from the early 1800s, placed into suspended animation by an irate mummy's curse. Understanding of Middle Egyptian has gotten better since they were entombed, though, and contemporary interpretations of artifacts buried with them suggest that moderately expensive sacrifices on their behalf to Aten, an aspect of the sun god, will break their curses. Now, as it happens, some members of the team were slave-owners at the time of their entombment -- a serious violation of contemporary ethics, to say the least! Given that they all came from the same cultural context and shared roughly the same mores, though, I view it as implausible that this would substantially affect their chances of getting uncursed. And that's a pretty extreme example. If one of the porters had a background as a thief, I doubt anyone would even consider it as a factor.

Personally, it seems like a pretty rational decision to me (excluding autopsy problems, which I talk about somewhere else). The reason I advise against it is because I don't believe anyone could possibly know their utility function - and life expectancy - well enough to make a sensible decision about when the right time was to begin the process. This is true even if you exclude the fact that there are good reasons to think that many people do not approach death rationally, and if you consider that an ostentatious decapitation would likely be distressing fo... (read more)

I don't think it would be possible to know the optimal moment to begin the process, but I think there are a number of diseases where it would be possible to choose a pretty good moment to begin.

I agree the fact that current cryonics practice is not optimised for revival is extremely strong Baysian evidence (for me at least) that most cryonicists on these forums are considerably more likely to be signalling than rationally trying to live forever. I would add into that the well known problem of 'cryo-crastinating', which is hard to explain if pro-cryo individuals are highly rational life-year maximisers, but extremely easy to explain if people are willing to send a 'pro-cryo' signal when it is free, but not when it is expensive.

On the other hand, I... (read more)

Ok. My comment wasn't intended as a criticism to your post, it was just my two cents on cryonics.

Unfortunately my friends would probably see winning too often as a good reason to collude against me. Although collusion would lower the average length of a game, it would probably raise the chance any individual friend wanted to play with me (because they would be winning more often, on average). Although I agree with you that that's a strategy I hadn't considered, which is quite an oversight given the content of the post!

Khoth has correctly identified that surely the best strategy is to convince my friends to play a similar but superior game, although th... (read more)

You are completely correct about Alcor's FAQ:

While some communities have enacted legislation allowing suicide with the assistance of a physician, any such case almost certainly would be followed by an autopsy which would include dissection of the brain. For these reasons, and to protect ourselves from any accusation of conflict of interest, Alcor has a strict policy against advising any member to end life prematurely.

However this identifies exactly the point I was making; a rational discussion could be had about the risk of autopsy destroying the brain... (read more)

I didn't think about this. Still, I would look more into that scenario. I am not sure Alcor has properly investigated all the options here: there are many countries in the world and maybe some would allow suicide cryonics. You do know that cryonics is not just dropping a body or a brain in liquid nitrogen, don't you? Cellular damage in that scenario would be too high; while it's not completely out of the question that future science will be able to restore someone frozen that way, cryonics tries to preserve the patient in as good condition as possible, which includes, in optimal case: * Connect the patient to cardiopulmonary support as soon as possible, which realistically means as soon as legal death is proclaimed. (*) * Slowly cool the body * Replace blood with cryoprotectant * Continue to slowly cool the body At some point the cardiopulmonary support can be disconnected. Now, (*) is the main point that could use further optimization. As the things stand today, cryonicists are not allowed to do their thing with the body before legal death is proclaimed. They are lucky if the medical staff is supportive, relatives do not interfere and legal death is proclaimed quickly. But even in this scenario they could in principle act quicker, if they were allowed to. I think it is quite possible that Alcor did not see a reason to investigate in necessary detail the legal situation in the world regarding whether there exists such a country where one can do suicide cryonics and avoid autopsy. If they are not flexible enough, I think KrioRus just might. And if a cryonics company will open in China... who knows, maybe they will be more relaxed about euthanasia?

One possible mechanism would be a general social shift towards more cryogenics meaning cryo voters became an important voting block. Since most rational cryo-voters can be expected to be more-or-less single issue with respect to cryonics (almost nothing will increase your individual expected utility for a given level of money more than increasing your chance of being revivified), politicians will begin to face great pressure to appease this demographic. You'll see that this is different to the situation you describe for at least three reasons:

  • On those is

... (read more)

I understand the concern about unpacking bias, and read about a related experiment also by Kahneman (I think) who elicited a higher probability when he asked experts to estimate the likelihood a specific scenario (deflation of the rouble leads to a Soviet invasion of Germany and nuclear war) than a general scenario (nuclear war). So I would be cautious of handling an equation with multiple, obviously overlapping terms. I'll update the original post when I'm back at a computer to include a health warning in the first paragraph.

I don't think I fully understa... (read more)

You might be thinking of an earlier discussion of this issue involving car failure diagnostics:

Other relevant differences might be that humans are never allowed to just 'die' of making bad financial decisions in countries like America - if humans make really wild spending decisions the state will at least feed and house them.

Perhaps charities would be a better reference class? If anyone can find any data I'll happily rerun the analysis, but 'age charities' will give you charities concerned with age and 'life expectancy charities' will give you charities concerned with life expectancy; it could be a bit of a slog.

Be careful about reading too much into that - "Large enterprises, those with 250 or greater employment, accounted for only 0.4 per cent of all enterprises." according to the ONS. You'd expect to see 89.4% small companies by chance alone, although I concede that if a company is around for 100 years you might expect it to grow into a large company by inertia alone.

With respect to your other point, you are absolutely right - I wanted to show my working here to indicate how badly wrong back-of-the-envelope calculations can go in situations like this.

Although in reality it makes a big difference, in my model it does not - my model varies only the size of the company, since that's all I could find good data on. I found another source saying that the age of a company was about 30% more important in predicting its survival than its size, but because it was a complicated regression I was unable to exclude terms that had absolutely nothing to do with cryonics.

It is probable that you should shade the probability of Alcor surviving up and the probability of KryoRus surviving down to account for this.

Hi RolfAndreassen,

I'm impressed you spotted that so quickly, because it was non-obvious to me. Nevertheless, I did spot the problem you are describing and attempted to correct for it in the second graph by considering only companies which went into liquidation, using a proper academic source.

This seems an unfair response to me - TheAncientGeek offers a standard argument pro-AA while admitting they haven’t studied the issue in detail. You attack the response on grounds that an AA supporter could rebut without ever contradicting themselves (i.e. “It isn’t collective justice, it compensates for individual inequality of opportunity (unless, say, you choose to define a progressive income tax as ‘collective justice’ in which case I do support collective justice)”, “It applies to certain minorities and not others because of the size of the disopportu... (read more)

In the particular case of the first problem there may be a shortcut that is worthwhile exploring. As I see it, your problem is that you would like to know how much leisure time to allocate to improve your productiveness (including the possibility of zero leisure time). The ‘improving of productiveness’ is the important goal to you, not the philosophical distinctions regarding the optimal work/life balance. Since productivity is something approximately measurable, you yourself can optimise over this domain.

With that in mind, you can perform an experiment on... (read more)

Determining the amount of fun time in advance seems like a good idea in itself. This reminds me of how I have to set an alarm clock during meditation. If I don't... I will spend most of the time thinking "should I already stop, or should I continue?", which defeats the whole purpose of meditation. I suppose the same kind of worry can also spoil fun. So just set up an alarm... and until it rings, feel completely relaxed about not being productive.

This puts me in mind of a thought experiment Yvain posted a while ago (I’m certain he’s not the original author, but I can’t for the life of me track it any further back than his LiveJournal):

“A man has a machine with a button on it. If you press the button, there is a one in five million chance that you will die immediately; otherwise, nothing happens. He offers you some money to press the button once. What do you do? Do you refuse to press it for any amount? If not, how much money would convince you to press the button?”

This is – I think – analogous to y... (read more)

I consider that is also a constrained search!

Hi elharo,

Your criticism is absolutely correct; not all writers are novelist so even if novelists show the income variation I assert, that wouldn’t show up on the BLS statistics. I think that shows that my illustrative example is flawed, but I hope it doesn’t undermine the main conclusion too much.

Ah yes, this makes a lot of sense and explains my earlier confusion; although it may still be true that there is a high variance in income between novelists, not all writers are novelists (for that matter, I suppose not all novelists are writers, at least as far as the BLS will bin them). I think that indicates my illustrative example is flawed, although I hope the wider point still stands.

These findings might also be useful for choosing between high-variance and low-variance careers, insofar as you are able to predict how much better at each of these skills you are than average.

For example, engineering is a field where most people earn a decent wage and some people earn a very decent (but not obscene) wage. I think the average salary of an engineering graduate is about $58,000, with the vast majority of that made up by people working in the $30,000-$50,000 band with a couple of hotshots pulling down six-digit salaries and almost nobody grin... (read more)

Also (and I suspect even more importantly) by the fact that the impact of political knowledge and skills may be different in different careers. Not only because some careers simply have more room for variation, but also because some careers have more scope for effective evaluation on non-political factors. I suspect that both engineering and novel-writing have lower impact-of-politics than average, but even though novel-writing is higher-variance I suspect that there's more scope to turn political skill into career success in engineering than in novel-writing.
Writers != Novelists Per the BLS site, "Writers and authors develop written content for advertisements, books, magazines, movie and television scripts, songs, and online publications....Writers and authors work in an office, at home, or wherever else they have access to a computer. Most work full time. However, self-employed and freelance writers usually work part time or have variable schedules. About two-thirds were self-employed in 2012." In other words, a lot of writers are neither struggling along at $15,000-$25,000 nor making John Grisham levels of money. Some even collect salaries and benefits. I made a pretty good living as a fulltime writer for about 12 years, during which time I wrote essentially no fiction.
Are you sure about that? reports only the median not the mean (good for them), at $55k, and in a tab gives an idea of the tails:
I think this is a slightly misleading way of putting it, for a couple of reasons. I would expect the average political skill level among full-time politicians to be pretty high, but mostly because politics is almost as high-variance a career path as writing or music: for every full-time legislator or lobbyist, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of low-level organizers, party functionaries, and so forth, all the way down to campaign workers and school board members. It's just that most of the lower-level people in politics are doing it as a hobby or sideline, and getting paid part-time if at all, just like most musicians have day jobs. Also, I think you're probably underestimating the amount of political skill that can be applied to technical jobs -- though many people with more political than technical savvy drift into management at some point.