All of Lucas2000's Comments + Replies

The Trolley Problem

Doesn't your Maori massaclre example disprove the validity of virtue ethics?

I wouldn't say it's a matter of validity, exactly, but of suitability to different circumstances. In my own personal ethics I mix a majority of Western virtues with a few Eastern ones, filter them through my own brand of consequentialism in which I give preference to actions that preserve information to actions that destroy it, ignore deontology almost entirely, take into consideration the distribution of moral reasoning stages as well as which of the 20 natural desires may be at play, and leave utilitarian reasoning proper to solve edge cases and gray areas. The Moriori massacre is precisely one of the references I keep in mind when balancing all of these influences into taking a concrete action.
The Trolley Problem

"No, obviously. That would be monstrous."

This feels like begging the question. Why is it obvious that a doctor shouldn't kill one patient to save five? It seems like it is obvious because we have an overwhelmingly strong intuition that it is wrong. Given that there are many people who have an overwhelmingly strong intuition that being gay is wrong, I'm unsure if it's a good idea to just rely on that intuition, and leave it there.

I don't know whether it is because I have examined that case more closely but I think it can be thought throught. If you had doctors who were known to organ harvest then anybody submitting to be their patient would risk getting harvested. This is not merely possible but kind of justifiable. It is so justifiable that even if a harvesting would save more lives more immedietly the effect of people not seeking medical treatment would easily displace this benefit. On the contrary if all the patetients are super glued in tot he decision making it becomes more natural to do the harvesting. Imagine a tight family where everybody would give their lives for each other. The resistance to one of them heroing for the others melts away (intuition claim) quite effectively. So as a doctor you can't mandate a harvesting but you can present the harvesting option to the relevant people. One of the possible hurdles is of thinking of a sane person knowingly consenting to be harvested (people like tend to aviod death where possible) but where it makes sense it mainly happens via that route. I guess there is still the tricky situation where asking for consent is not possible but the doctor questimates that the relevant parties would be on board.
1Boris Kashirin9mo
In this scenario we giving the doctor an awful lot of power. We need to have unreasonably high trust in him to make such choice practical. Handling other people lives often have funny effects on one morality. There is another problem: In reality, shit happens. But our intuition says something like "Shit happens to other people. I have control over my life, as long as I do everything right no shit will ever happen to me". See? In my mind there is no way I ever need organ transplant so such arrangement is strictly detrimental, while in reality chances are I will be saved by it. Again there are good reasons for such intuition, as it promotes responsibility for own actions. If we are to make health "common property" who will be responsible for it? I suspect it is easier to solve artificial organs than human nature.
My answer is that in the trolly problem the people are interchangeable, and 5 > 1. In the doctor problem, you have 5 sick and 1 healthy, and they have different value. What the doctor should do is pick (by any means) one of the sick patients, extract thier 4 healthy organs and save the other 4. The end result for the unlucky one is the same (death), but the other 4 do better.
9Radu Floricica9mo
Intuition is probably a proxy for all the negative externalities. You can't quickly think through all of them, but there's a feeling that harvesting organs from a (soon to be healthy) patient is a huge breach of trust, which is Wrong. Why is breach of trust wrong? Intellectual answer goes one way, and intuition goes the evolved way, which is "thou shalt dislike people who breach trust".
Don't feel bad about not knowing basic things

Database normalization is just about avoiding duplication, right?

I think the thing here is that people who get database design can't really understand how it is possible to not get it, but there are a lot of people for whom it is extremely difficult to understand this topic. I sat through years of lectures wondering why we were taught things that were completely self-evident. Then I looked at a lot of other people's code, and it became clear that it wasn't self-evident at all.

Covid 5/6: Vaccine Patent Suspension

"stripping away intellectual property protections without any compensation"

Isn't the AstraZeneca vaccine almost entirely financed with government funding? Even the ostensibly privately funded vaccines depend heavily on funding provided by taxpayers.

So as a taxpayer, not only am I funding the development of these vaccines, I'm also then funding government force to protect private monopolies on these vaccines. Regardless of the short-term implications of IP waivers, it seems clear to me that this is not a sound system, and that the incentives for creating th... (read more)

Why I Work on Ads

I have two different thoughts on this:

  1. I don't think ads are inherently bad. It's true that ads are a way of financing things that either would otherwise not be financed, or would be financed by (and thus exclusively available to) relatively rich people. However, I'm pretty sure that online ads actually devalue ads in general, and make it more difficult to provide these services. An ad that runs in a newspaper is much, much more valuable than an online ad on that same newspaper's website, even if the website reaches many more people. This effectively means
... (read more)

The way online ads are currently monetized relies on personalization. This means that online ads create a strong incentive to track people, and to harm people's ability to have privacy online.

You might be interested in the second half of the post, starting with "But the biggest issue I see people raising is the privacy impact of targeted ads..."?

A New Center? [Politics] [Wishful Thinking]

I have two thoughts on this:

  1. It seems to me that a winner-take-all election for an immensely powerful head of the executive branch of the government necessarily creates a two-party system (or something similar to a two-party system, as has happened in Germany), even if you ignore all other issues. Since there is no general feeling that having a powerful president is inherently problematic, there will not be a strong third party.
  2. It's not entirely clear to me what concrete positions a hypothetical center party would take. The two parties aren't that far apart
... (read more)
Germany has neither a winner-take-all election nor a two-party system.
Enable or enforce price transparency in healthcare. Seems easy to appeal to both sides (whether or not implementation is simple).
1a. The proposal here is not to get rid of the two-party system, but rather, to reduce polarization. My view here is that polarization is harmful. 1b. The proposal attempts to work within the two-party system, rather than create a true third party. 1c. Why do you think a two-party system has to do with a strong executive? Mathematical arguments suggest that plurality voting eventually results in a two-party system, because you're usually wasting your vote if you vote for anyone other than the two candidates with the highest probability of winning. Similarly, mathematical arguments suggest that instant runoff voting will eventually result in a two-party system, because out of the top three candidates, the most moderate will often be "squeezed out" (instant runoff voting isn't very kind to compromise candidates). Other voting methods are much more mathematically favorable to multi-party systems. Therefore I tend to assume that the voting method is the culprit. However, abstract arguments like this don't necessarily reflect reality, so I'm open to the idea that a strong executive is the real culprit. But why do you think this? 1d. What happened in Germany? 2a. Gun control and immigration preferences differ a lot between the two parties. Recently, preferences about police funding are very different. I think budgetary differences are large. I believe there are many other issues. I have seen graphs illustrating that the increasing political polarization can be seen rather vividly by only looking at how politicians vote (IE it's gotten much easier to predict party affiliation from what legislation a politician supports). Also, similar graphs for voters (IE it's gotten much easier to separate republicans and democrats based on survey questions). 2b. But you're right, policy questions are not really the main driver of polarization or of my personal perception of polarization, or even of my wish to reduce polarization. Rather, identity politics (the pressure to identify
On Falsifying the Simulation Hypothesis (or Embracing its Predictions)

I find it highly unlikely that we live in a simulation. Anyone who has implemented any kind of simulation has found out that they are hugely wasteful. It requires a huge amount of complexity to simulate even a tiny, low-complexity world. Therefore, all simulations will try to optimize as much as possible. However, we clearly don't live in a tiny, low-complexity, optimized world. Our everyday experiences could be implemented with a much, much lower-complexity world that doesn't have stuff like  relativity and quantum gravity and dark energy and muons.

T... (read more)

Why are young, healthy people eager to take the Covid-19 vaccine?

I can only speak for myself, but the simple fact is that we need to be about 70% of the population to be immune in order for anything resembling normalcy to return. With a 90% protection rate for new vaccines, this means about 80% of people need to either get sick or get the vaccine. Given how few people already have antibodies in many places, this means that pretty much everybody who isn't a vaccine denier needs to get vaccinated. That's why I will get vaccinated as soon as I am able to.

Why are deaths not increasing with infections in the US?

I think there are two basic reasons:

  1. There's a lag between infection and test, between test and hospitalization, and between hospitalization and death. So death is the chart that will go up the latest, and there are a lot of long-tail deaths from people who were infected a long time ago, so death rate rises are less "spikey" than infections.
  2. Case fatality rate has trended down in general. Hospitalization-death rate has roughly halfed since the first wave.

Scientists aren't entirely sure why 2. is happening, but there are multiple possible explanations, all of... (read more)

2Anon User2y
Perhaps also higher availability of testing and higher awareness means more people with mild symptoms get tested?
The lag was not previously two weeks. I doubt the lag got longer so I suspect there is a real and large CFR reduction. The four lower points sound plausible and are some good news, finally :)
Swiss Political System: More than You ever Wanted to Know (I.)

One nice thing about Switzerland is that there is no president, no single leader of the executive branch, but instead a federal council consisting of seven people who decide by majority, and where every member will stand behind the majority decision (there is technically a leader of the council, but he's first amongst equals, and has no special powers). Not having a single president means there's no winner-take-all outcome, which means you don't end up with a two-party system.

Billionaire Economics

We should also consider whether we really want billionaires to make unilateral, wide-ranging public health/policy decisions without any real governmental oversight. We have a government for a reason, so that we can actually elect people to make these decisions, and have some accountabilities for the outcomes. I get that this sounds almost ridiculous at the moment, given how dysfunctional particularly the American government has become, but I'd still rather have some control than no control at all.

Rather than have billionaires take over governmental responsibilities, a better approach would probably be to tax them at a higher rate.

Don't be silly - billions (or a hundred billion) aren't enough for unilateral, wide-ranging policy of any large country. There's a reason these misleading comparisons _NEVER_ include government (or even institutional endowments). According to,GDP)%20as%20of%20Q1%202014., [,GDP)%20as%20of%20Q1%202014.,] the US Federal government has a net worth of at least 123 trillion, hundreds of times the net worth of Gates and Bezos combined.

It's not clear why we should expect government to do a better job; this is explored in some depth here.

We don't have governments because we believe that central planning is the best way to solve all problems. Especially in the US that's very far from the reason why a government was created.
Six economics misconceptions of mine which I've resolved over the last few years

Is there actual evidence that a minimum wage decreases total consumption? I've never heard that, or seen any study on it, and I'd like to learn more.

(Intuitively, it doesn't seem highly plausible to me, since my assumption would be that it transfers wealth from rich people to poor people, which should increase total consumption, because there's more room for consumption growth for poorer people, but I'm also not sure if that is true.)

(Edit: after a cursory search of current research on the topic, it seems that the consensus is rather that a minimum wage has a small positive effect on consumption, which is what I would have naively expected.)

Remember that I’m not interested in evidence here, this post is just about what the theoretical analysis says :) In an economy where the relative wealth of rich and poor people is constant, poor people and rich people both have consumption equal to their income.
Plausible A.I. Takeoff Scenario Short Story

There are some additional it's/its mistakes on your text, e.g. here:

I run a denial of service attack on it’s server, cutting it off from the web before it can get it’s copies running.
Programmers Should Plan For Lower Pay

I used to work as a software engineer. As the company I work for has grown a lot, I now no longer write code, but do software design, and hire new team members in different positions, inluding PMs, visual design, usability design, backend programming, and frontend programming.

It is extremely difficult to find good programmers, especially frontend programmers.

I'm pretty sure that the reason here is not that it is difficult to become a good programmer, but that a lot of people choose not do, for a number of reasons.

Two reasons that I have personally enc... (read more)