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Sasha Chapin on bad social norms in rationality/EA

The drowning child argument comes close enough to endorsing that message that Eliezer felt a need to push back on it.

Attempted Gears Analysis of AGI Intervention Discussion With Eliezer

A survey of leading chemists would likely produce dismissals based on a strawmanned version of Drexler's ideas. If you could survey people who demonstrably understood Drexler, I'm pretty sure they'd say it's feasible, but critics would plausibly complain about selection bias.

The best analysis of gray goo risk seems to be Some Limits to Global Ecophagy by Biovorous Nanoreplicators, with Public Policy Recommendations.

They badly overestimated how much effort would get put into developing nanotech. That likely says more about the profitability of working on early-stage nanotech than it says about the eventual impact.

A pharmaceutical stock pricing mystery

If Merck’s stock increase on Oct. 1 was due molnupiravir exceeding expectations for its effectiveness,

That doesn't seem quite right. I'll guess that the news was near the middle of the expected range, and the stock rose because of the increased chances of FDA approval, while not causing much change in expected effectiveness conditional on FDA approval.

Worth checking your stock trading skills

I'm a bit unclear how to map your generate versus detect distinction onto my thoughts. Very little of what I do seems like generating ideas. I'd describe my process more as noticing possibilities / finding ideas, then evaluating them.

My experience says it's harder to evaluate ideas than to find them. I doubt that I'm unusually good at finding ideas, so there's something strange about our disagreement. I'll guess it's due to some combination of you being unusually good at evaluating ideas, and being overconfident about those evaluations.

I find new ideas mostly by looking at more companies than most other investors. That's likely more time consuming than your approach, and sometimes feels like a mind-numbing search for a needle in a haystack. But I never exhaust the supply of new companies to look at (e.g. there are many non-US stock exchanges that I haven't found time to look at).

My concerns with commentator opinions:

  • Neglected topics / ideas tend to be more profitable than ones that get adequate attention, because getting attention tends to cause stocks to be efficiently priced.
  • Framing effects: if I frame issues the same way as others, I'll have some of the same biases they do.
  • Social pressures: commentators have more goals than just making money for their followers. It's hard for me to avoid being influenced by that.

Here are some more specific guesses as to why you might value commentators opinions more than I do:

  • Your approach works a couple of years per decade, maybe when there's a large influx of inexperienced investors, and underperforms the rest of the time. You might still be right in this case if the outperformance is high enough in the best years - I might have overweighted median years in evaluating my experience.
  • Something has changed to make your approach usually work better (e.g. Seeking Alpha might have made it easier to distinguish good commentators). I haven't thought much about these issues for over a decade.
  • You're unusually good at distinguishing good commentators.
  • You're unusually objective at evaluating ideas.
Worth checking your stock trading skills

I suspect you're more optimistic than I am about how many LWers would make good traders.

I started investing as a hobby in 1980, and alternated between trading and software jobs up through 1999 before getting good enough at trading to give low priority to seeking non-trading jobs. I averaged a bit over 15% per year over the 20 year period ending in 2018, and over 35% per year since then (pretax).

You seem to be implying that people can determine within a year or so of starting whether they're good at trading. I think it's complex enough that it's hard to say how much time it takes.

Some people will do great for a few years, then go broke spectacularly (mostly people with ADHD? my intuition says you're not going to fail this way, but maybe 1/3 of LWers who try trading might do so).

Your list of tips is mostly good.

Tip 7 seems close to being an important piece of advice, but my version of this advice focuses less on who, and more on why a person on the other side of a trade appears to disagree with me (keeping in mind Aumann-like reasons, plus the wisdom of crowds phenomenon).

I often ask my self questions like:

  • could most traders be wrong here due to availability bias? (e.g. underestimating pandemic risks when the last 6 or so pandemic scares were false alarms; overestimating how much the pandemic would hurt profits during the worst times)
  • Is the chart consistent with the hypothesis that traders are reacting to news that I haven't noticed?

I expect that tip 2 downplays too much the difficulty of distinguishing competent experts. It's been a long time since I put much thought into identifying expert commentators, but I expect that most LWers will make a fair number of mistakes here, and take a year or two to recognize those mistakes.

I recommend looking at commentators as a source of data, but doing your best to not believe anything that could reasonably be classified as an opinion rather than a fact. That includes opinions about what topics deserve attention.

I strongly advise would-be traders to balance that out by reading a lot of earnings reports (mostly the presentations that are publicized by the companies, with an occasional glance at SEC filings). These reports have a higher fact to opinion ratio, mainly because they run a higher risk of being sued if they say something misleading. But it's still important to ignore their opinions about which facts deserve your attention.

Earnings reports are also important as a means of prompting you to learn enough about accounting.

Studying financial history seems important, as some important phenomena happen only a couple of times per century.

When I was getting started, Value Line was an important source of information, because it provided about 18 years of fundamental data on many stocks in a convenient format (a trial subscription should be all you need to get a better historical prespective than most investors).

I use Stock Investor Pro to download a large amount of fundamental data.

Some relevant books:

[Book Review] "The Bell Curve" by Charles Murray

I mostly agree with this review, but it endorses some rather poor parts of the book.

Properly administered IQ tests are not demonstrably biased against social, economic, ethnic, or racial groups. ... Charles Murray doesn’t bother proving the above points. These facts are well established among scientists.

Cultural neutrality is not well established. The Bell Curve's claims here ought to be rephrased as something more like "the cultural biases of IQ tests are equivalent to the biases that 20th century academia promoted". I've written about this here and here.

the gap between the adopted children with two black parents and the adopted children with two white parents was seventeen points, in line with the B/W difference customarily observed. Whatever the environmental impact may have been, it cannot have been large.

This seems to assume that parental impact constitutes most of environmental impact. Books such as The Nurture Assumption and WEIRDest People have convinced me that this assumption is way off. The Bell Curve has a section on malparenting seemed plausible to me at the time it was written, but which now looks pretty misguided (in much the same way as mainstream social science was/is misguided).

My current thinking on money and low carb diets

Many kinds of beans are more nutritious than tofu.

Liver is cheaper and more nutritious than most other animal products.

I bet that you can expand your options beyond the slow carb diet rules without losing the benefits if you use the Satiety Index (e.g. add potatoes).

My experience at and around MIRI and CFAR (inspired by Zoe Curzi's writeup of experiences at Leverage)

It seems misleading in a non-accidental way, but it seems fairly plausible that their main motive was to obscure their identity.

Book Review: Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite

I made the comparison in part to point out the similarities, and I guess I should have been clearer about that.

My understanding of Buddhism is fairly shallow. I think I checked this Wikipedia page, which says there's some disagreement. But now that I reread it, it does suggest that many Buddhists agree with Kurzban.

Yes, it was published in 2010.

Book Review: Why Everyone (Else) Is a Hypocrite

Kurzban doesn't directly address the question of whether it's ever useful to model the mind as made of a few big parts. I presume he would admit they can sometimes be reasonable models to use. He's mostly focused on showing that those big parts don't act like very unified agents. That seems consistent with sometimes using simpler, less accurate models.

He certainly didn't convince me to stop using the concepts of system 1 and system 2. I took his arguments as a reminder that those concepts were half-assed approximations.

He's saying that it's extremely hard to answer those questions about edge detectors. We have little agreement on whether we should be concerned about the experiences of bats or insects, and it's similarly unobvious whether we should worry about the suffering of edge detectors.

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