All of mutterc's Comments + Replies

A funny argument for traditional morality

Good question :-)

We could measure them against some non-relativist ethical standard, like "US Dollars lost", "lives lost", "person-weeks stuck in traffic" or somesuch.

A funny argument for traditional morality

drift is harmful from the perspective of my current values

True. And that drift would be beneficial from the perspective of your new, drifted-to values.

But neither of those statements have any bearing on whether value drift (in general or any specific instance thereof) is good or bad.

3prase11yIt's good measured by the new values and bad measured by the old ones. What other standards of goodness do we have at our disposal in this problem?
Meetup : Research Triangle Less Wrong Meetup

Offer extended; I can be there about 6:40.

0AdeleneDawner11yNifty. Thanks. :)
Meetup : Research Triangle Less Wrong Meetup

Sure. Google says it's not particularly out of the way. (I got a day job, around Brier Creek; coming from there puts me halfway to the meetup compared to coming from home).

0curiousepic11yOh even better. Thanks.
2curiousepic11yIs it possible for you to pick up Alicorn and Ade? The venue being so close to me, it feels like the location's benefit would be wasted if I went to Durham and back! hwc or I could definitely taxi the next meetings that would be closer to Raleigh.
I'm becoming intolerant. Help.

I know this sounds snarky, but it's serious: Are you married?

Ideally a life partner will share many of your values, but no two people share all values, and you'll need to respect the ones that differ. (Even if you're both Bayesian, in area where you have different values/axioms you will not necessarily agree).

0loup-vaillant11yI live with my SO. As far as I can tell, she didn't completely abandoned belief in belief []. She also doesn't seem to accept Occam's Razor (seemingly because it "doesn't interest" her), and use that to reject many-worlds []. Or maybe many-worlds sounds absurd [], and she only reject Occam's Razor by contraposition []. Anyway, all this has been a source of significant tension, which is now subsidized (I hope). The factual disagreements remains, though. Lesson learned: "Thou will not convince everyone". As for our values, I didn't noted any significant divergence yet.
asking an AI to make itself friendly

Assuming one already had an AI that is capable of understanding human psychology

From what I understand, that's actually the hard part of the Friendliness problem.

-4anotheruser11yIt's a hard problem, but a riskless one. Getting it to understand psychology may be difficult, but as it isn't a goal, just something it learns while growing, there is no risk in it. The risk comes from the goal. I'm trying to reduce the risk of coming up with a flawed goal for the AI by using its knowledge of psychology.
Reasons for being rational

a significant proportion of the LW posters are contrarians

I'm not!

7Will_Sawin11yThis is why we're all so weird, right?

Me too!

The Ideological Turing Test

Depends on the position. Remember Poe's Law - there are some positions where it's impossible to distinguish a parody from the real thing.

Exclude the supernatural? My worldview is up for grabs.

Attempt to make beliefs pay rent, and beliefs in the supernatural will likely melt away as they fail to constrain your anticipated experiences.

And don't worry too much about supernatural beliefs. Just keep trying to make your beliefs correspond to reality, and see where that goes.

What do bad clothes signal about you?

sandals are supposed to show your feet

I read once that men should generally avoid showing their feet, because said feet are likely to be uglier than socks or shoes. (Or even Vibram Fivefingers).

General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

The implied context of all this is: what if Bitcoin (or something similar) became a/the dominant currency, that paychecks, debts, etc. are denominated in?

If it doesn't then it doesn't really matter, societally, if it inflates, deflates, mutates, or defenestrates (other than to the people who invest in it...) It'd just be another good, as you say.

0Pavitra11yYou seem, then, to be arguing that the behavior of our currency has an importantly different kind of effect on the overall economy than the behavior of any other asset. ...on reflection, I think that's actually right. Under hyperinflation, people tend to run around with wheelbarrows of banknotes rather than reverting to barter. I'll have to think about it some more. Nevertheless, I would expect the effects of currency deflation to be limited or mitigated by the fact that you eventually have to buy food.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

It's deserved - I wasn't being productive, or constructive, or even particularly coherent. It surprised me too. I think various Issues of mine that nobody cares about all came together yesterday, and so I'd be better off to just avoid discussing economics altogether. At least until I can be unemotional about it (if ever). Sorry for polluting the thread, back to public-key encryption...

0Barry_Cotter11yNo worries. If you feel like discussing macroeconomics start a discussion thread.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

My understanding is that one good wouldn't do it, but persistent, overall deflation would in fact devastate the economy.

Sure, right now you can stick money under a mattress for 6 months and buy more Core 2 laptops than you could today. But that doesn't seem the same as "getting richer".

Where's the line? Good question. Obviously if you could buy more of anything that would be getting richer without investing the money. Or if you could buy more (houses or food or cars or Internet access or electricity or sex or drugs or rock n' roll).

0Pavitra11yIf you consider only cash and laptops, then it looks reasonable to call cash deflationary, but if you consider the economy as a whole, then it's more accurate to say that laptops are inflationary. What makes the deflation of bitcoins an "overall" deflation, as opposed to the deflation of one good?
7Vladimir_M11yThere was persistent overall deflation in various periods in the 19th century, and it didn't devastate the economy.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

I've not been very coherent, and I think my once-debilitating fear of the Invisible Hand has not gone away enough. So I'm not making a lot of sense, even to myself.

So, umm, never mind. Sorry for polluting the thread.

General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

Can you expand? Here's the difference as I see it:

  • Price index: the dollar is worth 5% less than last year because it buys 5% less of the stuff in this market basket, populated with stuff representative of the "cost of living"
  • Gold standard: the dollar is worth 5% less than last year because it buys 5% less gold

Which is more or less useful, and why?

0Vladimir_M11yDepending on the context, either concept can be anything from useful to deeply misleading. However, in contrast to the (mis-)use of price indexes in mainstream economics, the goldbug obsessions can always be countered by simply pointing out that gold is not an end-all. Therefore, while there will always be goldbugs immune to rational argument, their ideas are unlikely to become a basis for elaborate, sophisticated-looking, and academically accredited pseudoscience. In contrast, the concept of "real" values in mainstream economics typically degenerates into an even more far-flung Platonic fantasy that there is some "real value" of money out there to be measured, discussed, and incorporated into theories like a real physical quantity. This fantasy is obscured by a vast cloud of complicated and abstruse (and seemingly objective and scientific) theory, to the point where it's usually impossible to disentangle reality from fantasy and spin without a very considerable effort -- in which economists are usually unwilling to cooperate, if not outright hostile.
3Barry_Cotter11yThis is also a good example of why you're getting downvoted so much. Passive agressive and snide. The only one of the trifecta you're missing this time is insulting. If you want to make productive communication more likely you would be well advised to modify your tone, and to avoid insults, denotationally as in the comment I replied to above, and conotationally, as in the comment you thought better of in your conversation with SilasBarta.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

Sure, just discuss the particular problems with the (best versions of) propositions put forth by such people [goldbugs and libertarians], and how their conclusions don't follow, and what specific pieces of evidence weight heavily against them. (Note the lack of smearing them as racists in this method.)

OK. Libertarianism I can leave to others (I don't think I have anything new to say about it). As for hard-money advocacy, usually one sees the following errors:

  • Belief that there's some Platonic ideal of "value" against which currencies should b
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1SilasBarta11yNone of the attributions to me sound like anything I've said, and your counterarguments are just parroting the mainstream view that I'm well aware of and criticized very specifically.
2Vladimir_M11yI find it funny how fans of mainstream economics mock goldbugs about this, while at the same time basing a large part of their own theories on a far more extreme Platonic concept of "real" values calculated using price indexes.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

Now to get to the actual economics:

Investing in the productive economy hasn't yielded a positive return for the last ten years

Given stock price trends I can't see how this is true. Can you elaborate? Even Treasuries are yielding 3-odd percent in the face of 2-odd percent inflation.

unless you want all behavior to shift toward consuming all real resources immediately, including "seed corn", you have just as much an interest in seeing an economy strike a balance between present an future consumption

The wealth of a nation is not some fixed qu... (read more)

General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

you hate rich people

I do, and this probably clouds my judgement.

2CharlieSheen10y7) Well off White Liberals consider Poor Whites an out-group. They do not consider well off Blacks an out-group. Poor working class White Males don't really have much to gain from the modern mainstream left. They don't have much to gain from the modern mainstream right either to be honest, but the left is blatantly enough hostile to them that its easier to figure out. It is easy to dislike those who look down on you. It is much harder to see through displays of religion and false patriotism.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

To expand, whenever you think of "dollar debasement", ask yourself "relative to what?"

  • Gold: Exactly how important is gold to everyday commerce and life?
  • Oil: Check the oil price in other currencies to get an idea of how much of the change is because of the value of the dollar vs. the supply of and demand for oil.
  • Other commodities: see "oil". If the commodities are produced in the USA (or China, as long as they peg their currency, the RMB, to the USD), then fluctuations in the value of the dollar can't affect their prices. (
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1[anonymous]10yCouldn't help rolling my eyes. Obvious status signalling is obvious. Note: I am not disputing humans are basically ethnocentric and this biases their thinking. Edit: Obviously this post is also signaling.
7SilasBarta11yInvesting in the productive economy hasn't yielded a positive return for the last ten years, and yes, it's fair to expect the market to compensate you for deferring consumption because society is decidedly not indifferent between whether you consume resources now or later. It would be one thing if investment opportunities did this while cash could not, but that is not where we are today. (It's fine if you want to toss out the concept of deservingness [though less so if you want to paint me as a racist], but you can't get around how rewarded behavior will tend to happen more and less rewarded behavior, less. So unless you want all behavior to shift toward consuming all real resources immediately, including "seed corn", you have just as much an interest in seeing an economy strike a balance between present an future consumption, no matter how much you hate rich people or deem them racist.) And getting people to invest in productive enterprises under threat of their money withering away is pure Machiavellianism, not a system you'd come up with after careful consideration of how to best reach a Pareto optimum. It would be one thing if the market did compensate people for deferral of consumption (through positive real after-tax interest rates), in a magnitude that reflects society's current willingness to move their purchases forward, but "noble" (and very non-secret, conspiracy-theory-not-required) manipulations of financial markets have prevented this from happening. It is not an obviously superior economic system when people have to make haphazard, ill-considered loans just to have a chance at preserving purchasing power. And finally, an inflationary currency doesn't solve the problem of investors requiring positive real expected return; it just rearranges the problem. Nor is it some kind of boon to have exporters that are advantaged by cheap local currency. If that's so great, why not debase the currency to nothing? We have a name for working for others for nothi
2mutterc11yTo expand, whenever you think of "dollar debasement", ask yourself "relative to what?" * Gold: Exactly how important is gold to everyday commerce and life? * Oil: Check the oil price in other currencies to get an idea of how much of the change is because of the value of the dollar vs. the supply of and demand for oil. * Other commodities: see "oil". If the commodities are produced in the USA (or China, as long as they peg their currency, the RMB, to the USD), then fluctuations in the value of the dollar can't affect their prices. (Edit: Yes, everything needs oil, and almost everything has at least some "foreign" component, so there can be second-order effects). * Other currencies: If capital flows in and out of the subject countries are relatively free, then exchange rate changes mean something real about the respective economies. (China restricts capital flows and buys a shitload of USD, that's how they can keep the exchange rate constant. It also means domestically they have ugly inflation they can't do anything about).
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

Let's hear your economic system design where anyone can gain real wealth by simply putting their cash under mattresses (as would be true if deflation were the norm). Who needs to invest in the actual productive economy?

7Pavitra11yYour argument seems to imply that the existence of even one deflationary good is sufficient to destroy an entire economy. Surely if this were the case then the law of large numbers would have killed us by now.
5Barry_Cotter11yI regret I could only downvote this once.
2ArisKatsaris11yDownvoted. For quite obvious reasons.
8jimrandomh11yInflation only really affects dollar-denominated accounts that don't bear (enough) interest. Everyone needs to have some money in such accounts (checking accounts, cash) for short-term spending purposes. For poor people, this is usually the majority of their holdings; for wealthy people, it will only be a tiny fraction. Thus, inflation has a larger impact, percentage-wise, on the poor. Inflation also produces downward pressure on effective wages, since workers have to keep getting raises just to maintain parity. I think that inflation is dramatically higher than is commonly realized; increased production efficiency should be causing the prices of most things to plummet, but other than electronics, that isn't happening.
6ArisKatsaris11ySomething sounding retarded to you is primarily a statement about you, not about that something.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

Good point. I have a bad habit of spending time in corners of the Internet where libertarians, gold-bugs and various mutations thereof like to come and argue (i.e. any economics-related blog); so anything that looks like hard-money or libertarian advocacy provokes an instant "aw geez, not this shit again!" reaction.

It does occur to me that any system of money with de-centralized production probably does have to have an upper quantity limit, to keep random assholes from manipulating its value.

As popular as libertarianism and goldbuggism seem to be... (read more)

6SilasBarta11ySure, just discuss the particular problems with the (best versions of) propositions put forth by such people, and how their conclusions don't follow, and what specific pieces of evidence weigh heavily against them. (Note the lack of smearing them as racists in this method.) OTOH, if all you have is, "these people are weird and I don't like them but I don't specifically know what error they're making, they just seem like aristocratic Southern racists", you're best off keeping that to yourself.
0[anonymous]11ySomething doesn't seem right about blaming the popularity of Bitcoin on goldbugs.
General Bitcoin discussion thread (June 2011)

I do not understand why people are especially excited about bitcoin.

My understanding:

  • It's not under the control of any particular government, which excites people who view governments as evil mutants
  • It has a fixed upper quantity, which excites people who understand macroeconomics little enough that they think that's a good idea for a medium of exchange

Or in two words: techno-libertarian porn.

EDIT: It occurs to me the fixed upper quantity is necessary given de-centralized production.

It also occurs to me to wonder if there are any reasons to advocate Bitcoin other than those two - anyone want to help me update?

3Bongo11yOr with different connotations: it's not under the control of any particular person or group, which excites people who think power corrupts.
0Pavitra11yI'm not sure that the fixed quantity is necessary. The generation rate hasn't started leveling off yet, and the bitcoin economy seems to be okay. I've thought before that it might have been better to schedule long-term linear growth, just keeping the block bounty at fifty forever.

I share with your general impression, but I think your phrasing casts bitcoin advocates as idiots which is a poor discussion tactic.

Rational Parenting?

I'd think if you value / reward honesty and being reality-based, everything else should fall out of that. But mine are still too young to tell.

6David_Gerard11ySee that list of cognitive biases? Small children are all of those, all of the time. And ruthless manipulators. You're gonna have fun!
Job Search Advice

The unemployment office recommended My Next Move for scouting out occupations. (I'm already established in something that can loosely be called a career so it wasn't of use to me).

What would you do with infinite willpower?

I would presumably be able to stop eating things after noting that I am neither hungry nor enjoying them.

This is actually theorized to be a major contributor to obesity. It definitely is for me; I generally desire to continue eating until mechanically full, or the food is gone.

Forcibly eating slowly (using chopsticks can help that) can help that.

0Alicorn11yIt doesn't happen very often. Usually I am hungry, enjoying my food, or both. But occasionally I get stuck in take-more-bites mode with neither in place, and that's annoying.
What would you do with infinite willpower?

My ability to do things very fast is currently hampered by my psychological need to multitask, take frequent and extended breaks, etc. With infinite willpower I would just do things very fast. I would take on more paid work.

Before I got ADD treatment I coped by working in a job where it's an asset rather than a liability: tech support. One cannot keep the same activity going very long in that environment because one is certain to be interrupted with something of higher priority, in short order.

What would you do with infinite willpower?

Lose 120-150 pounds. Then put some energy into figuring out what to do next. Then do that.

Should a rationalist be concerned about habitat loss/biodiversity loss?

What upsides are left to being vegetarian once you leave out economics and ecology? I have trouble thinking of any. It's a bit easier for a vegetarian to eat "light" but one has to keep an eye on one's protein intake. As far as I can tell the moral dimension (is it "wrong" to eat animals?) reduces to personal preference.

Is there an upside I'm missing?

0UnclGhost11yI was thinking more in terms of moral concerns, so I should have specified to ignore health as well. I think asking whether or not to value biodiversity is the same sort of question--it reduces to personal preference.
1NancyLebovitz11yEnough people report being healthier when vegetarian that it might be a worthwhile thing to experiment with.
Job Search Advice

When applying, model the probability of getting any specific job as zero. If you get through an in-person interview and it goes well, you can update that probability upwards a bit.

That is, don't serialize your applications (you won't hear back anything at all from most of them, anyway). Expect near-universal rejection, even for jobs for which you're the world's most ideal candidate.

Compensate by applying for hundreds of jobs.

What are you working on? June 2011

Just finished a new, improved sandbox. The prior one was irregularly shaped, hard to cover, and lined with a tarp so when it got wet it would stay wet. The new one:

  • Added a couple boards to make it strictly rectangular
  • Treated plywood lid in two pieces with handles, to make it easy to cover in a mostly waterproof way
  • Lined with landscape cloth, so if it gets wet it can drain, without letting in worms, ants and such from below

Motivation source: Starting a new (temporary) day job soon, so I could afford the materials, and would have little time to work on it.

Heuristics for Deciding What to Work On

With similar keys: If they're the same brand of lock, and you control both, you can get one re-keyed to be the same as the other.

Locksmiths will do this, or if you buy a new lock of that brand at Lowe's and bring that existing key (and the person who knows how to do this is afoot), they will re-key the lock to match your existing key, at no extra charge.

Overcoming Suffering & Buddhism

I read (in What To Expect, maybe) that until the 50s or so, doctors generally would not give pain relief during childbirth. Not so much because of concern over side effects, etc. but for reasons as above.

Painful childbirth was seen as a divine curse upon womankind - a punishment for Eve's role in the Original Sin. Therefore ameliorating said pain would be immoral.


Existing Absurd Technologies

I was without plumbing for several years as a teenager (1980s). Occasionally I marvel that I can use an automatic dishwasher instead of dipping up a pot from the rain barrel and heating it on the stove. It got mundane for me mighty quick though.

3MartinB11ypretty much. Humans get used to new things amazingly fast. My family home got running water in the mid 80s, sewage and telephone in the 90s, central heating in the 00s. These days I get phones and netbooks for free and use them everywhere. My technology exposure curve was higher than common in the 90s, but it has evened out, and i am very used to all of the items I have. Living in the future is awesome!
[SEQ RERUN] Lotteries: A Waste of Hope

Lately I fantasize about telling my wife I have to work late, sneaking off to a motel, and sleeping.

-2[anonymous]6yI'm curious if people who make snide comments like this about their partners are actually being sincere. Is it actually unpleasant to have a secure sexual option, even if it's with all that baggage. The closest analogy I have is that I want to masturbate less cause the calculation is tending in favour or less pleasure if O do it. I love masturbating and porn but I get a sore gouch from all the fapping and porn is a superstimuli so I'm cutting down.
Advice request: Buying a car

I've found to be well worth the $26/year, especially in the automotive reviews.

Advice request: Buying a car

From the Car Talk guys: The cheapest car to own, in the long run, is a junk heap. But expenses with such cars are "bursty" and unpredictable; you never know when you night have to drop a grand on a head gasket or something. They're also less safe than newer cars of similar mass, and more likely to break down at inconvenient times.

Advice request: Buying a car

I would suggest; they will tell you an average of what other people are paying for a car of your choice (a good guide to knowing if prices are in line with reality). I don't know if they cover Australia, but even if they don't, some good information is likely there for the taking.

Advice request: Buying a car

It also makes a difference if you're unusually tall and/or fat (or as I prefer to be called, a "person of size".)

Teachable Rationality Skills

It's a mind hack to help one consider fellow LWers as part of one's "tribe".

It seems to me to be a rationality skill, in the sense of consciously exploiting human cognitive biases in the service of one's own goals.

Or it's a very mild form of cult "love bombing".

0thomblake11yAn anti-rationality skill then? Indeed.
Advice request: Homeownership

Good point. I hadn't considered that that whole mess hasn't shaken out yet.

Advice request: Homeownership

I actually think it is rare for houses to lose value, especially over a few years. But I might well be missing something.

Yes, there was recently a housing "bubble" where many did lose value. My understanding is that the typical case there was a house that went up 40% in value from 2000 to 2007, then plummeted to its 2000 value. Sucks if you buy in 2007 I suppose.

And there are instances where an individual house can lose significant amounts of value. It could become unintentionally mobile, for example.

0hwc11yIt was much, much worse than that in Florida, where they overbuilt and there was a glut. As far as I know, there was not as much excessive building in Adelene's city.
1jimrandomh11yThat should be "it is rare for houses to lose value without a corresponding insurance payout". Natural disasters and fires sometimes cause houses to lose value rather precipitously. (Which is another thing to remember about house ownership: it requires insurance.)
-2KenChen11yNote that if the Fed raises interest rates, credit will become more expensive, demand will decrease, and prices will decrease (all else equal).
8James_Miller11yBecause of the messed up US housing market there's a huge glut of houses on which the owners are in technical default but the bank hasn't yet seized or sold. A clearing of this glut would greatly increase the supply of houses and potentially cause their prices to plummet in certain areas. The housing market is in an extremely untypical situation and it's dangerous to rely on past performance to predict what's going to happen in the future. Plus, the enormous future US federal government debt might cause Congress to eliminate the mortgage interest tax deduction and this would devastate the housing market.
Advice request: Homeownership

Other advice:

  • Get an inspection. That house is a fixer-upper; you'll want to have a good idea of everything that needs fixed. Triage that stuff in terms of safety, severity, cost, inconvenience, etc.
  • Even casual friends will often help you move, paint, etc. in exchange for pizza and beer. (I'm in serious danger of having a day job by then, but ought to be able to find some time nonetheless).
  • There will always be stuff that needs improved, altered, newly furnished, etc. Pace yourself.
  • Mortgage: Accept only a fixed rate with no prepayment penalties. If your
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