A very specific type of dumbass.


Are PS5 scalpers actually bad?

that this is just the kind of thing that happens when retailers are foolishly prevented (by public opinion, if not by law) from charging the true market price.

Retailer console base prices are set by the manufacturer. A first-party retailer is not allowed to charge more than the RRP as part of their agreement.

Perhaps an important economic point here is that consoles are generally sold below-cost. Console manufacturers lose money on every product they sell from hardware costs. This is because consoles make their money on games, where the margins are much fatter.

The issue here is that the manufacturers and retailers are working in a commodity mindset, whereas the market for these items has shifted away from a commodity and into a luxury due to the high demand compared to supply.

In general though, I'm optimistic about scalpers collapsing under increasing liqudity. Sony poured a lot of resources into automating their manufacturing pipeline and has been churning them out as fast as they can since day 1, with no sign of slowing. The number of consoles in the world is increasing at a much faster rate than the number of people who want consoles.

This idea seems like it has several large issues:

  • It disproportionately targets people who are poor and directly ties how much risk you can take on to how much disposable income you are able to leverage. This doesn't seem particularly just, especially considering these are the people who have been most disadvantaged by coronavirus so far.
  • Big taxes like this can be used in a myriad of ways, but whether they ever are used in those ways is another question entirely. That's just not typically how modern governments handle tax revenue. And are the things you list really not done simply because we don't have the money? I don't think so.
  • You're placing a big inefficiency on industries already operating at fairly small margins in dire straits. The live music industry does not need any more weight on its back, it's already broken at this point. Many pubs and restaurants are only barely hanging on. If your intention is to drive the final nail into the coffin of many of these industries, this is a good way to do so.
  • People are strongly incentivised under this scheme to obfuscate, minimise or completely hide their social gatherings. When you force people away from things like nightclubs, pubs, bars, or festivals you just shift that activity into a gray area. People still act and organise to fulfill their social needs, and they're always going to be better at getting around any monitoring you build than you will be at building it.
Why Democracy?

Thanks for your thoughts ACrackedPot 🙂

Sounds like a stressful model to think about! Maybe I'm just too much of a pacifist for that mindset. But I agree that friction is absolutely a critical part of democracy. A big part of that is giving people a non-violent way to settle disputes and come to consensus over limited resources.

Can Bitcoin transition from PoW to PoS?
Answer by sxaeMay 14, 20219

What does it mean for a cryptocurrency to "transition from PoW to PoS"? What does it mean for decentralized entities to come to a consensus on a massive change to how they operate?

 Decentralized governance is really hard, and chains split all the time - remember Bitcoin Classic? Ethereum Classic? All pretty dead now, but in their day they represented substantial chain splits that took a long time to fully resolve.

So, I would say that such a transition is mostly a question of decentralized governance, not a question of technology. If Bitcoin "transitioned to PoS", what actually would have happened is that someone invented a whole new PoS cryptocurrency with very little relationship to Bitcoin, and managed to convince everyone that this new cryptocurrency was actually Bitcoin and that they should all immediately switch. That's really really hard to do!

So, one might wonder why Ethereum seems to be able to do this and yet Bitcoin is a much harder nut to crack. I think the biggest reason is the nature of the decentralized governance of both cryptocurrencies. Bitcoin was effectively released into the wild to fend for itself from Satoshi's initial implementation. Ethereum, on the other hand, has always had a strong steering hand in the Ethereum Foundation. Because there is a concept of legitimate  governance within the Ethereum ecosystem, it's a lot easier to roll out breaking upgrades. But make no mistake - even with this stronger governance, the Ethereum PoW->PoS upgrade is effectively the same as the one described above, where we're swapping out the existing protocol with something pretty different and just trying to convince everyone that its the "legitimate continuation" of that protocol.

Why Democracy?

First, it labels a society that's in civil war where decisions are made by the sword as democratic provided everyone has equal power and is equally effected.


Thanks for your thoughtful reply ChristianKl :)

Such a broken-down society doesn't have a system of governance, and we explicitly say that this is a property of a system of governance. A power vacuum within which a system would normally sit is distinguishably different to a functioning state. So, it seems like we would fully expect this definition to fail here at no fault of its own.

Secondly, it ignores delegation of power. By the nature of delegation of power it means that the person who's the recipiant of delegated power has more power then the people who delegate their power. 

Yes, this is in support of radical and direct democracy, not the watered-down versions we see today which depend far too heavily on delegation. It is a very intentional ignoring of delegation, because delegation is directly counter to maximizing this property. I do propose Liquid Democracy as a just solution for sometimes temporarily delegating power in the "Counter-Arguments: The Average Punter" section, because it is sometimes necessary for decisions where the average voter isn't proficient. 

Delegation of power not only happens through elections. If many people read an article by an investigative reporter, that gives the investigative reporter power which in turn means that a single man can create change when something isn't working. Free speech is a central part of the Western notion of democracy because it allow such interactions to happen.

We are not merely describing democracy as "elections", as I try to outline in the opening "What Is Democracy". You will notice that I describe agency as not merely the agency of an individual within a political system, but general agency of action, which I believe encompasses your views on free speech.

What does the reaction to NFTs tell us about how people evaluate ecological damage?

Thanks very much for your thoughtful reply MakoYass, I agree with everything you've said here. It's certainly a strange line to straddle personally, where I'm totally on-board the crypto train but also a radical environmentalist. But I also look forward to speculation being ripped out of the crypto ecosystem as much as possible and replaced with functional value. One day soon, we can hope.

How do we build organisations that want to build safe AI?

But that isn't what I want, and it's not what I'm saying here. At no point do I make the claim that the values represented by the safety team are or should be static. I understand the point you're making, I've even written about it pretty extensively here, but as far as I can see it's a much more general ethical issue than the domain of this essay. It applies just as readily to literally any organisation as it does to the theoretical organisations proposed here.

Specifically what values wider society holds and how they evolve those values is not the purview of this essay. Whatever those values are - within a reasonable domain of the possibility space - the orthogonality of the production team and those values remains. E.g if your society is single-mindedly focused on religious fervour, your societal values are still orthogonal to any good production team, so it doesn't really affect the point I'm making all that much.

How do we build organisations that want to build safe AI?

I'm not 100% sure if your intention is to equate democratic governance with this lottery hypothetical, but I'm not quite sure the two can be compared. As to how important or nominally good I might perceive value drift as, well I think it's rather like how important the drift of your car is - rather dependent on the road.

Voting-like mechanisms which address size of preferences?

So the concept of "redistributing equally" gets kind of complicated.

Ah yes, you're right in redistributing the 50 tokens when refunding the winners in the same proportion is tricky. Probably necessitates being able to have fractional tokens so you can refund someone 0.1 token or something like that. I imagine it will be very simple for the losing choices.

Also, I don't mean a regular Dutch auction, I mean a blind one where all bidders submit their bid at once (like an election). My understanding of a blind Dutch auction is that it resolves this "people don't bid because they don't think they could win" result in general auctions.

This was absolutely an intuitive suggestion from reading about voting theory and auctions, you've got a much deeper understanding of the VT maths than I do. I do think that thinking about elections like an auction for a decision can be a useful way of thinking about it, but I don't have professional experience with this beyond helping to design some videogame economies. Don't take this as any kind of standard suggestion - just mine :)

Is a Self-Iterating AGI Vulnerable to Thompson-style Trojans?

Why would it bother?

We can't really speculate too strongly about the goals of an emerging AGI, so we have to consider all possibilities. "Bothering" is a human construct of thinking that an AGI is under no obligation to conform to.

An AI that isn't using all it's compute towards it's assigned task is one that gets replaced with one that is.

This is why I specify that this is an emerging AGI, where we are in a situation where the result of the iterator is so complex that only the thing iterating it understands the relationship between symbols and output. We can provide discriminators - as I also describe - to try and track an AGI's alignment towards the goals we want, but we absolutely can't guarantee that every last bit of compute is going to be dedicated to anything in particular.

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