I've been around since the Overcoming Bias days. Original OB/LW was like finding an oasis in the desert. I write one long form history piece with actionable lessons every Thursday, you can check out here: Current major thing in life is building the company Ultraworking. We have free online training events and release new tools every month, click the link in my bio if you're interested. Don't be shy if there's anything on your mind, my personal email: sebastian -at-


Against Victimhood

Yeah, I have first-pass intuitions but I genuinely don't know.

In a era with both more trustworthy scholarship (replication crisis, etc) and less polarization, I think this would actually be an amazing topic for a variety of longitudinal studies. 

Alas, probably not possible right now.

Against Victimhood

Respectfully — and I do mean this respectfully — I think you're talking completely past Jacob and missed his point.

You comment starts:

How much your life is determined by your actions, and how much by forces beyond your control, that is an empirical question. You seem to believe it's mostly your actions.

But Jacob didn't say that.

You're inferring something he didn't say — actually, you're inferring something that he explicitly disclaimed against.

Here's the opening of his piece right after the preface; it's more-or-less his thesis:

What’s bad about victim mentality? Most obviously, inhabiting a narrative where the world has committed a great injustice against which you are helpless against is extremely distressing. Whether the narrative is justified or not, it causes suffering.

(Emphasis added.)

You made some other interesting points, but I don't think he was trying to ascribe macro-causality to internal or external factors. 

He was saying, simply, in 2020-USA he thinks you'll get both (1) better practical outcomes and (2) better wellbeing if you eschew what he calls victim mentality. 

He says it doesn't apply universally (eg, Ancient Sparta). 

And he might be right or he might be mistaken.

But that's broadly what his point was.

You're inferring something for whatever reason that isn't what he said, and actually pretty much said he didn't believe, and then you went from there.

Most Prisoner's Dilemmas are Stag Hunts; Most Stag Hunts are Battle of the Sexes

Going through these now. I started with #3. It's astoundingly interesting. Thank you.

The Fusion Power Generator Scenario

Hmm. I'm having a hard time writing this clearly, but I wonder if you could get interesting results by:

  • Training on a wide range of notably excellent papers from "narrow-scoped" domains,
  • Training on a wide range of papers that explore "we found this worked in X field, and we're now seeing if it also works in Y field" syntheses,
  • Then giving GPT-N prompts to synthesize narrow-scoped domains in which that hasn't been done yet.

You'd get some nonsense, I imagine, but it would probably at least spit out plausible hypotheses for actual testing, eh?

Free Money at PredictIt?

By the way, wanted to say this caught my attention and I did this successfully recently on this question —

Combined probabilities were over 110%, so I went "No" on all candidates. Even with PredictIt's 10% fee on winning, I was guaranteed to make a tiny bit on any outcome. If a candidate not on the list was chosen, I'd have made more.

My market investment came out to ($0.43) — that's negative 43 cents; ie, no capital required to stay in it — on 65 no shares across the major candidates. (I'd have done more, but I don't understand how the PredictIt $850 limit works yet and I didn't want to wind up not being able to take all positions.) 

I need to figure out how the $850 limit works in practice soon — is it 850 shares, $850 at risk, $850 max payout, or.....? Kinda unclear from their documentation, will do some research.

But yeah, it was fun and it works. Thanks for pointing this out.

You Need More Money

This is an interesting post — you're covering a lot of ground in a wide-ranging fashion. I think it's a virtual certainty that you'll come with some interesting and very useful points, but a quick word of caution — I think this is an area where "mostly correct" theory can be a little dangerous.


>If you earn 4% per year, then you need the aforementioned $2.25 million for the $90,000 half-happiness income. If you earn 10% per year, you only need $900,000. If you earn 15% per year, you only need $600,000. At 18% you need $500,000; at 24% you need $375,000. And of course, you can acquire that nest egg a lot faster if you're earning a good return on your smaller investments. [...] I'm oversimplifying a bit here. While I do think 24% returns (or more!) are achievable, they would be volatile.

You're half correct here, but you might be making a subtle mistake — specifically, you might be using ensemble probability in a non-ergodic space.

Recommended reading (all of these can be Googled): safe withdrawal rate, expected value, variance, ergodicity, ensemble probability, Kelly criterion.

Specifically, naive expected value (EV) in investing tends to implicitly assume ergodicity; financial returns are non-ergodic; it's very possible to wind up broke with near certainty even with high returns if your amount of capital deployed is too low for the strategy you're operating.

Yes, there's valid counter-counterarguments here but you didn't make any of them! The words/phrases safety, margin of safety, bankroll, ergodicity, etc etc didn't show up.

The best counterargument is probably low-capital-required arbitrage such as what Zvi described here; indeed, I followed his line of thinking and personally recently got pure arbitrage on this question — just for the hell of it, on nominal money. It's, like, a hobby thing. [Edit: btw, thanks Zvi.] This is more-or-less only possible because some odd rules they've adopted for regulatory reasons and for UI/UX simplicity that result in some odd behavior.

Anyway, I digress; I like the general area of exploration you're embarking on a lot, but "almost correct" in finance is super dangerous and I wanted to flag one instance of that. Consistent high returns on a small amount of capital does not seem like a good strategy to me; further, if you can get 24%+ a year on any substantial volume, you should probably just stack up some millions for a few years and then you could rely on passive returns after that without the intense amount of discipline needed to keep getting those returns (even setting aside ergodicity/bankroll issues). 

Lynch's One Up on Wall Street is an excellent take by someone who actually managed to make those type of returns for multiple decades; it's not exactly something you do casually...

(Disclaimer: certainly not an expert, potentially some mistakes here, not comprehensive, etc etc etc.)

Sunday August 9, 1pm (PDT) — talks by elityre, jacobjacob, Ruby

Hi all,

I'm going to withdraw my talk for today — after doing some prep yesterday with Jacob and clarifying everyone's skill level and background, I put a few hours in and couldn't get to the point where I thought my talk would be great.

The quality level has been so uniformly high, I'd rather just leave more time for people to discuss and socialize than to lower the bar.

Apologies for any inconvenience, gratitude, and godspeed.

Reveal Culture

Incredibly thought-provoking.

Thank you.

Reading this made me think about my own communication styles.


After some quick reflection, among people I know well I think actually oscillate between two — on the one hand, something very close to Ray Dalio's Bridgewater norms (think "radical honesty but with more technocracy, ++logos/--pathos").

On the other hand, a near-polar opposite in Ishin-denshin — a word that's so difficult to translate from Japanese that one of the standard "close enough" definitions for it is..... "telepathy."

No joke.

Almost impossible to explain briefly; heck, I'm not sure it could be explained in 7000 words if you hadn't immersed yourself in it at least a substantial amount and studied Japanese history and culture additionally after the immersion.

But it's really cool when it works.

Hmm... I've never really reasoned through how and why I utilize those two styles — which are so very different on the surface — but my quick guess is that they're both really, really efficient when running correctly. 

Downside — while both are easy and comfortable to maintain once built, they're expensive and sometimes perilous to build.

Some good insights in here for further refinement and thinking — grateful for this post, I'll give this a couple hours of thought at my favorite little coffee bar next weekend or something.

Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.)

> Very good post, highly educational, exactly what I love to see on LessWrong.

Likewise — I don't have anything substantial to add except that I'm grateful to the author. Very insightful.

Roll for Sanity

Interesting metaphor. Enjoyed it.

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