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You are correct off course. I was merely reacting against your statement that I can make no difference at all.

Your original post said :

If you're a "rationalist", but not rich and not on your way to being rich, you're probably just deluding yourself.

I assumed that with 'rich' you mean world top 100 millionaire levels (Correct me if I'm wrong here). You are right that I don't care enough about $ and status to reach those levels but I wouldn't say I am poor enough to make absolutely no difference at all.

My minimalistic lifestyle coupled with a average income allows me to save a lot of money. Probably more then my older colleagues who probably earn more then me. And I'm sure that I have more money in the bank that most of the people in my age bracket. (Had anyway. I spend most of it to buy land for my house).

In the future, I'm planning to donate a portion of my income but I'm waiting until my expenses have stabilized and don't expect any major financial costs.

EDIT : My apologies, just reread your top post and realized I overlooked

Vote this comment down if your net worth is >= $100k, vote up otherwise

I'm assuming that $100K is your limit for being rich and as I just have a bit more it makes my original comment invalid.

However, it does proof that not caring much about $ and status is not an insurmountable barrier to acquiring a lot of money. By reversing it (i.e. instead of working harder/smarter and earn more, just spend less) you can still get enough to make a difference (but indeed not to the levels like Bill Gates did).

I'm familiar with some of the obvious arguments at a basic level (entrepreneurship is usually win-win, money can be used to help fund or attract attention for just about any other project or argument you care to have succeed, getting rich should be relatively easy in a world full of both arbitrage opportunities and irrational people), but still don't quite find them convincing

I do find them convincing. Unfortunately, I don't find them motivating. Making a sustained effort to do something usually depends for me on :

  • earning enough money to sustain my lifestyle (I could live on welfare if I really wanted to but I find that ethically wrong).
  • finding it interesting

My lifestyle tends to be rather minimalistic so that even an average to low income is more then enough to sustain it. I also find it a lot easier to just forgo some comfort or gadget instead of working more to pay for it (such wants are for me usually fleeting anyway). Finding something interesting is for the most part out of my control so I can't do much there.

I have to admit however that I'm in a rather comfortable position so that I don't have to really care about money all that much. I live in Europe so medical care is compared to the USA cheap. I'm building my own house now but I'm getting a lot of help from my family both financially & practically. Still, the same reasoning holds.

This is why I found (when I was younger) communism a better idea than capitalism. I had to recognize however that most people don't think my way and that communism is unsustainable. One of the most surprising experiments in found in this regard is the one where someone can choose between :

  • getting a 100 dollar raise while giving anyone else a 200 dollar raise
  • getting a 50 dollar raise while giving anyone else no raise

Assume that prices of goods stay equal in both cases i.e. that fact that everyone else gets a 200 dollar raise in the first option has no influence on the price of goods. When I first read this to my great surprise most people choose option 2 while I found option 1 the blindingly obvious correct choice.

I donated blood just yesterday. Unfortunately, I'm AB+ which means my blood is only suitable to other AB+ people. About 5% of the population according to Wikipedia. On the plus side, I can receive blood from anyone :). I have to admit that I'm having trouble keeping a regular schedule of blood donation.

On the topic of diet, LessWrong helped me losing about 17 pounds through implementing some short term motivation methods. Counted in the probability of more years at life that's a huge win.

Good points. Just read the whole conversation between you and Vladimir_M and I agree it could go both ways.

You're assuming that because someone has made mistakes themselves they will judge others less harshly. That is not necessarily the case.

Besides, most people make indeed mistakes but not the same mistakes. If you're boss is a teetotaler and you are a careful driver, you are not going to think well of each other if you get drunk and your boss gets into an car accident.

Even I have the same problem. I tend to procrastinate so if a coworker is past his deadline I don't really care. But I dislike sloppy thinking and try to eradicate it in myself so it really gets on my nerves if someones goes all irrational on me. (Although I seem to be getting better as I get older in accepting that most people don't think like me.)

Well, I don't count as a lurker anymore but I only started posting about two weeks ago and lurked about 2 years before that so I think I qualify to comment about it. The only 2 forums where I post(ed) at all are LessWrong and INTPCentral.

INTPCentral was more of an experiment to see if I could sustain posting for an extended period of time. It didn't work and after 2 weeks I lost interest. LessWrong has less chance going the same way because of the high level of most top posts. That's my first barrier to post. The online community has to be interesting enough to make me come back.

The second is a certain reluctance to comment at all. I think that has to do with my aversion to attention (although this doesn't fly when I'm with friends. Then I have no problem with it). The only reason to call attention to myself is when I can significantly add to the conversation or to correct someone. That also makes it difficult for me to comment on a top level post that already has been thoroughly analyzed in the comments. Adding a comment that doesn't add anything does look too much like yelling 'me too, me too'.

Sorry, I used the wrong terminology. I meant an prenuptial agreement. The bus example was to show that even if you precommit there is always the possibility that you will change your mind (i.e. in this case by losing empathy). I used the extreme method of brain damage because it's completely out of your control. You cannot precommit on not being run over by a bus.

That's the reason why I never get why people are against marriage contracts. Even ignoring the inherent uncertainty of love & marriage, if I walk under a bus tomorrow and lose for example all empathy due to brain damage, my current self would wish you to divorce future psychopath-me as quickly as possible.

As for the OP, good article. If anyone ever asks why I spend my time theorizing away over 'impossible' things like AI or decision theory I can use this as an example.


If understand you correctly, you are saying that most people are not knowledgeable enough about the different domains in question to make any (or judge any) cross-domain connections. This seems plausible.

I can think however of another argument that confirms this but also clarifies why on Less Wrong we think that people actively compartmentalize instead of failing to make the connection and that is selection bias. Most people on this site are scientists, programmers or other technical professions. It seems that most are also consequentialists. Not surprisingly, both these facts points to people who enjoy following a chain of logic all way to the end.

So, we tend to learn a field until we know it's basic principles. For example, if you learn about gravity, you can learn just enough so you can calculate the falling speed of an object in gravitational field or you can learn about the bending of space-time by mass. It seems rather obvious to me that the second method encourages cross-domain connections. If you don't know the basic underlying principles of the domains you can't make connections.

I also see this all the time when I teach someone how to use computers. Some people build an internal model of how a computer & programs conceptually work and are then able to use most basic programs. Others learn by memorizing each step and are looking at each program as a domain on it's own instead of generalizing across all programs.

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