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Akrasia Tactics Review 3: The Return of the Akrasia

Leechblock type browser extensions: 7 points

I simply use an app called Hosts Editor on my phone to map to localhost. This instantly broke a habit I had of wasting time on reddit (an activity I generally regret after the fact, but that I still tended to do whenever I had a few spare minutes) and increased the time I spent on reading more interesting content (instapaper, or books). No downsides I have noticed.

Gates 2017 Annual letter

I was surprised at this:

In a recent survey, just 1 percent knew we had cut extreme poverty in half, and 99 percent underestimated the progress. That survey wasn’t just testing knowledge; it was testing optimism—and the world didn’t score so well.

The survey seems to be the one described here:

It reveals that 87% of people around the world believe that global poverty has either stayed the same or gotten worse over the past 20 years, when the exact opposite is true – it has more than halved.

People’s opinions and understanding vary hugely both between and inside countries. In China for instance, 50% of those surveyed think correctly that poverty has decreased, compared to only 8% in Germany and the US. “Chinese people can actually witness the success in tackling extreme poverty in their own country. It is instructive that people in richer nations cannot,” Lampert said.

I would be curious to see the question as asked, looks like actually ran the survey, but could not find any details on the results on the full report from glocalities (I presume they sell it)

It seems extraordinary that fully 92% of people in the US think that poverty is unchanged or worse since 1990 for example.

Interview with Nassim Taleb 'Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner'

He might have been lucky rather than have a good strategy, yes. Hard to tell.

Interview with Nassim Taleb 'Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner'

Oh, I agree. He himself claims that many analysts were saying the same things, and that you would need to be an imbecile to not notice what was going on at the time. My feeling is that he himself does not feel that he made an impressive prediction, and was actually just pointing out that it would inevitably go wrong at some point. in fact he has been talking about the issue for long before 2008, it just happens that the publication of his book came at just the right time to make it look like he predicted it just before it happened. (I may be wrong, and am not very familiar with his recent predictions around Trump and the arguments with Nate Silver on that )

Mainstream media does not wish to explain concepts like calibration, and instead runs with articles along tine lines of "Taleb predicts crash! Is God/Superintelligence!" despite his books repeatedly hammering home the point that he aims to make bets with tiny chance of success and low downside, but huge upside.

He aims to bet £1 on horses the bookies have at 10,000:1 that he thinks actually have 2,000:1 odds.

I do not know if he has previously made predictions with attached probabilities that we could track, he would probably argue that his investments play this role.

( more details in my other comment )

Interview with Nassim Taleb 'Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner'

Taleb's strategy is to absolutely make many bets with high payoff, low downside, expecting most of them to not pay out.

eg. he was wrong, but as he puts it:

“You have a very small probability of making money,” he said. “But if you’re right, you’ll never see a public plane again.”

another quote:

"I did 700,000 trades in career, was "wrong" on between 650,000 and 695,000."

We can assume that he is either lucky, or well calibrated, since he has made quite a bit of money over the years betting on events with very long odds.

Interview with Nassim Taleb 'Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner'

Source for the 2008 crisis prediction would be his book The Black Swam (I remember checking the publication date when reading The Black Swan, since it did seem very prescient):

Globalization creates interlocking fragility, while reducing volatility and giving the appearance of stability. In other words it creates devastating Black Swans. We have never lived before under the threat of a global collapse. Financial Institutions have been merging into a smaller number of very large banks. Almost all banks are interrelated. So the financial ecology is swelling into gigantic, incestuous, bureaucratic banks – when one fails, they all fall. The increased concentration among banks seems to have the effect of making financial crises less likely, but when they happen they are more global in scale and hit us very hard. We have moved from a diversified ecology of small banks, with varied lending policies, to a more homogeneous framework of firms that all resemble one another. True, we now have fewer failures, but when they occur ….I shiver at the thought.

Banks hire dull people and train them to be even more dull. If they look conservative, it's only because their loans go bust on rare, very rare occasions. But (...)bankers are not conservative at all. They are just phenomenally skilled at self-deception by burying the possibility of a large, devastating loss under the rug.

The government-sponsored institution Fannie Mae, when I look at its risks, seems to be sitting on a barrel of dynamite, vulnerable to the slightest hiccup. But not to worry: their large staff of scientists deemed these events "unlikely".

There is no way to gauge the effectiveness of their lending activity by observing it over a day, a week, a month, or . . . even a century! (...) the real- estate collapse of the early 1990s in which the now defunct savings and loan industry required a taxpayer-funded bailout of more than half a trillion dollars. The Federal Reserve bank protected them at our expense: when "conservative" bankers make profits, they get the benefits; when they are hurt, we pay the costs.

Once again, recall the story of banks hiding explosive risks in their portfolios. It is not a good idea to trust corporations with matters such as rare events because the performance of these executives is not observable on a short-term basis, and they will game the system by showing good performance so they can get their yearly bonus. The Achilles’ heel of capitalism is that if you make corporations compete, it is sometimes the one that is most exposed to the negative Black Swan that will appear to be the most fit for survival.


Open thread, Feb. 06 - Feb. 12, 2017

I don't think that the dev's touched predictionbook in quite a while. In general discovery of interesting public predictions doesn't work well because it's not easy to search and there are no tags.

Yes, this is true. I believe they accept pull requests but there has not been much development for a long time and the site is quite basic.

I didn't know about this one, thank you!

Open thread, Feb. 06 - Feb. 12, 2017

(some previous discussion of here)

[disclaimer: I have only been using the site seriously for around 5 months]

I was looking at the growth of recently, and there has been a pretty stable addition of about 5 new public predictions per day since 2012 (that is counting only new predictions, not including additional wagers on existing predictions). I was curious why the site did not seem to be growing, and how little it is mentioned or linked to on lesswrong and related blogs.

(sidebar: Total predictions (based on the IDs of the public predictions) are growing at about double that rate although there was huge growth around 2015 (graph) that I assume was either a script generating automated predictions, or just testing by the devs maybe -- does anyone know what caused this?)

Personally I find predictionbook to be very useful for

  • reducing hindsight bias
  • revealing planning fallacy
  • making me more objective, reducing effects of narrative fallacy
  • forcing me to think through questions more thoroughly by considering base rates, what the world would need to look like now for the prediction to come to pass, noticing composite predictions and considering each part individually, etc.
  • making me more aware of other people's failure at prediction, or when they are careful to make hard to verify predictions.
  • making me more wary of post-hoc rationalization of events I would not have predicted
  • fun

Gwern covers many other benefits of making and tracking predictions here

I would expect predictionbook to be more popular, since I am not aware of any similar services, and I find predictions to be so useful. I was therefore wondering:

  • who on lesswrong tracks their predictions outside of predictionbook, and their thoughts on that method
  • who is not tracking their predictions at all, and why they made that decision
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