philh

# Posts

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Notes on good judgement and how to develop it (80,000 Hours)

Can you be more specific? There are many things you could mean by "difference of degree". Some of them seem quite bad if true, and some seem perfectly benign.

Like sure, both are nonzero on some scale of contrarianism. But I predict that, for example, separating the world into "zero on that scale" and "nonzero on that scale" is mostly a silly categorization. (Even if the optimal amount on that scale is zero, which I doubt.) If all you mean by "difference of degree" is that they're both nonzero on that scale, then I think it says very little.

Whereas if you mean, for example, something like... "if you asked mainstream physics PhDs for their thoughts, they'd say "this is a dumb opinion to hold" only slightly more often for the mensa opinions than for the LW opinion"... if you mean something like that, then calling it "only a difference of degree" seems like a significant claim that would reflect badly on LW if it were true. But I don't think it's true.

Notes on good judgement and how to develop it (80,000 Hours)

I predict, and would be willing to bet if we can operationalize it, that: if we compare [the opinion you refer to expressed by some people in the rationalist community] to [the "this disproves relativity" opinions Villiam is refering to], the rationalist community opinion is more mainstream among physicists than the Mensa opinions.

Free Money at PredictIt: 2020 General Election

Whereas the BetFair rules say ‘next president.’

Note that betfair has both an exchange and a sportsbook, and you linked the sportsbook. Their exchange market for this question is also called "next president", but does have more detailed rules. In particular:

This market will be settled according to the candidate that has the most projected Electoral College votes won at the 2020 presidential election. Any subsequent events such as a ‘faithless elector’ will have no effect on the settlement of this market. In the event that no Presidential candidate receives a majority of the projected Electoral College votes, this market will be settled on the person chosen as President in accordance with the procedures set out by the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

I'm surprised there's nothing like that (that I can see) on the sportsbook.

Against boots theory

I simply disagree that that's what boots theory is saying. It seems like a reasonable thing to say, but not using the words that were used.

Against boots theory

I always interpreted “The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.” as saying that this is one way that the rich become richer.

Sure, and lots of people seem to do similar to you, and this is one of the things I'm complaining about. I think this is a weird interpretation of a straightforward sentence.

But also, what do you mean by "this"? If it's "spending less money" then part of my point is that I think you're just wrong; I think rich people spend more money. If it's something broader, then part of my point is that it's not clear what you do mean.

The “ghetto tax” is one place, but then there’s everything else—less stress, for instance, or being able to pay for education.

"Stress" seems like a reasonable thing to consider part of a ghetto tax, to me. "Rich people can pay for education" seems like it fits neither as part of the ghetto tax, or boots theory as originally written. Similarly, it seems like you want to count "earning interest on your bank balance" as part of boots theory, but I think that's a massive extension from the original text.

A reckless introduction to Hindley-Milner type inference

Thanks for the datapoint!

To answer your questions, a -> b denotes functions from type a to type b; so the function "round", taking a float and returning an int, has type Float -> Int. It's required to exist just because the rules of type inference specifically refer to it. You could implement HM without a List type or an Int type, it might be silly, but it would be meaningful. But if you tried to implement it without ->, it's not clear to me what you'd actually be implementing.

And ∀ is read "for all" - it's pretty standard in math, but if you don't know it or how standard it is, yeah, it would be opaque. Someone commented when I first wrote this that I ought to make a note of that, and I agreed it was a good idea and forgot to do it. I'll try again to remember to update it in the near future, along with a note about the arrow.

Thanks again!

The Box Spread Trick: Get rich slightly faster

Hm. "Value" might not have been quite what I meant there. The thing I was pointing at was that if you start with $100k worth of google stock in your account, you'd (if I'm understanding this correctly) still have$100k worth of google stock, even if the brokerage also marks you as having a $10-50k liability. You might have to liquidate some of it in future if there's a margin call, but your goal is presumably to avoid that. In light of this, to clarify the first point - "When you do, the value of your account will be$100k lower than it was before" - I meant $100k lower than it was before withdrawing, because previously your account had$100k cash and now it has $0k cash. I was thinking it would be the same value as it was before you sold the box spreads. But if selling the box spreads doesn't change the account value much - if the brokerage marks you as having$100k cash but also a ~$100k liability - then after withdrawing, the value is lower than before you sold the spreads. The Box Spread Trick: Get rich slightly faster Thanks, I didn't know these. the broker allows you to withdraw all but 10-50% of the value of your investments in a margin loan even without a box spread; they just charge exorbitant interest rates since they’re financing the loan themselves. To clarify, the difference between this and the box spread loan is: • With the box spread, your brokerage account gets deposited say$100k cash that someone else has lent you. The brokerage knows you'll need lots of cash in future, so they need collatoral to let you withdraw it. When you do, the value of your account will be $100k lower than it was before. • With this, your brokerage account has say$100k invested, but it's not currently in the form of cash. Your brokerage is willing to lend you $10-50k cash, and let you withdraw it; but they need both collatoral and interest for that. When you withdraw it, your account will still be worth$100k.

?

The Box Spread Trick: Get rich slightly faster

To explain/sanity check why I think it doesn't make sense for me personally to do this:

A thing the UK has is ISAs, which are accounts that you can put a certain amount into per year and not pay tax on your gains (or interest, for fixed-interest ISAs). The limit is something like £15k. One of my ISAs lets me invest in various stock indices, but not individual stocks, and I'd be surprised if there was one that let you pull off a trick like this.

Separately, any money I put into my pension lets me reclaim the income tax I already paid on it. Then I think I need to pay tax when withdrawing it, but some of it is tax free and the rest will be at a lower rate unless I withdraw a lot or have other income. (Or I guess if the rules change, which is maybe a possibility I should take more seriously.) My pension also lets me invest in stock indices.

So as I understand it, the bulk of what I invest should (and currently does) go to an ISA or pension. It's probably not harmful to put moderate amounts in the kind of broker that would let me do this trick, because I only pay capital gains tax if my gains are above some threshold. But I suspect the intersection of "enough money it's worth doing this trick with" and "not so much that I should just have it in an ISA" is either empty, or narrow enough to be only barely worthwhile.

(I'd also need to figure out where to put the money I've borrowed. We have current accounts that pay a few % on up to a few £k, but for large amounts the best safe investment I can think of is maybe premium bonds. That's a lottery that pays 1.4% interest on average, tax free. You can invest up to £50k in them. But then doing it with a smaller amount is riskier, because there's more chance that I don't earn enough.)

The Box Spread Trick: Get rich slightly faster

To check I understand the mechanics of this, let me try to restate parts of it:

• A box spread is a combination of options engineered to be worth a fixed amount at a specified future time. Thus, buying a box spread works out like lending money, and selling a box spread works out like borrowing it.
• I think the specific choice of SPX (the S&P 500) here doesn't matter too much, but presumably it'll be good because it's something that gets traded on a lot.
• If you borrow money like this, you can't in general withdraw it, because your broker doesn't know you'll be able to pay it back. But if you already have a lot of money invested with your broker, they might let you do so, using those investments as collatoral. The caveat will be that if your current investments drop below a certain value, your broker will ask you to pony up some more collatoral in the form of cash, possibly selling some of your investments.
• Using this trick, you sell a box spread to borrow money at a lower interest rate than you can normally. Then you withdraw it and invest in a different account, which has a fixed interest rate higher than the rate you're paying to borrow the money.

Does that sound about right? The third point is the one I'm least sure about.

(I'm unlikely to make use of this myself, not living in the US and not having that kind of money to invest. I just want to understand this stuff better than I currently do.)