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What are objects that have made your life better?

I did a full accounting, including vague cost-benefit ranking:

Ignoring the free ones, which you should just go and get now, I think the best are:

  • Sweet Dreams Contoured sleep mask. Massively improved sleep quality, without having to alter the room, close the windows, whatever. 100:1.

  • Bowflex SelectTech dumbbells. A cheap gym membership is £150 a year; using these a couple times a week for 2 years means I’ve saved hundreds of pounds and dozens of hours commuting. They should last 15 years, so maybe total 30:1. (During the present lockdown, with gyms closed, the dumbbells get a temporary massive boost too.)

  • [Queal, a complete food powder] once a day. Saves money (if a lunch would otherwise be £4) and time and the delivery vector means I actually use the other powders I buy (spirulina, creatine, beta-alanine). Big discount for verifiable EAs. Also a handy automatic prepper store. 10:1.

  • Filco Majestouch 2 Tenkeyless mechanical keyboard. Assuming this decreases my RSI risk by 1%, it will have paid off 10 times over. But also in comfort and fun alone. 10:1

What are the relative speeds of AI capabilities and AI safety?

Some more ways:

If it turns out that capabilities and safety are not so dichotomous, and so robustness / interpretability / safe exploration / maybe even impact regularisation get solved by the capabilities lot.

If early success with a date-competitive performance-competitive safety programme (e.g. IDA) puts capabilities research onto a safe path.

The Samurai and the Daimyo: A Useful Dynamic?

My name for this Einsteins and Eddingtons.** Besides the vital testing and extension of the big ideas, the Eddington can also handle popularisation and, most important of all, the identification and nurturing of new Einsteins. This is one reason I think teaching in academia could be high-impact, despite all the notorious inefficiencies and moral mazes.

** Not totally fair to Eddington, since he was a pretty strong theorist himself.

What is the point of College? Specifically is it worth investing time to gain knowledge?

Caplan puts the signalling share of the college income premium at 50%-80%, leaving (say) 20% for the human capital share. So your sentence calling HC "mostly irrelevant" is technically true, but I wouldn't use the word 'irrelevant' for a feature explaining ~ a fifth of the variance.

What are the risks of having your genome publicly available?

Ooh I know this one

  • Health insurance
  • Adversarial dirt
  • Increased police attention, false positives
  • DNA framing
  • Releases info about my family members
  • Probabilistic homophobia (etc)
  • Mate choice

Plus a few I wouldn't worry about even if I lived 500 years (signature bioweapons, clones)

Have epistemic conditions always been this bad?

The first thing that comes to mind is that there was more campus violence in the past (1960s-70s). e.g. Paris in May '68, the Zenkyoto riots, Students for a Democratic Society, internal Black Power murders, and so on.

When, at the 1966 SDS convention, women called for debate they were showered with abuse, pelted with tomatoes.

(Though one of the most notable student movements, the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley, was actually about lifting institutional restrictions on discussion specifically Vietnam War protest.)

I don't have data, but this fear was maybe a stronger chilling effect than of being called names and disapproved of. Ideas for operationalising the culture:

  • How many admin restrictions on acceptable speech? How many expulsions for speech?
  • How many protests at lectures? How many successful no-platforms?
  • How many students left college after cancelling?
  • some measure of polarisation, of people self-sorting into their tribe's college.
Automatic for the people

1 and 2. These are what I mean by capital distribution:

Prop up the liberal mixed economy: with a programme of mass employee stock ownership (mostly your 1); or by carving each full-time job into several part-time ones, plus heavy wage subsidies (your 2) (...); or get the government to buy every 18 year old a serious stock portfolio (your 2)

Basic income is also political in your sense (2), since it's a large government-driven change from the status quo (and, unless we wait for >> 50 years of growth before we implement it, it will likely involve tax hikes *).

One reason to favour building up private stocks (over UBI, a flow) is that this protects people (a bit) from later nativist or populist governments cutting off parts of the population. It still goes through politicians, but only once rather than annually. Not sure what protects against revolutionary appropriation (3) though.

(ESOPs are a relatively apolitical nudge, but I don't know how much of the problem they'd solve.)

\* World growth this year was 3.1%. Compounding that fifty times gets us $370tn GWP. It's hard to tell what the 'average world tax rate' is at present, but approximate it with public expenditure, around 25% of GWP. If we could only use 25% of $370tn, we'd be roughly where the above long extreme calculation put us: nowhere near enough.

Automatic for the people

That's a fair inference; 'foolish' was an unhelpful thing to say.

(My actual reason for disdaining Macs is finding recently that my desired laptop - nothing crazy, i7, 32GB RAM, 1TB SSD - was unavailable for any price. And that a price-matched one had about 25% those specs. Is that ideological?)

Automatic for the people

Sorry if I was unclear; I'm not endorsing that logical extreme of the UBI, and I'm also unnerved by many of the policies I describe. ("total control of production by any entity is a terrible unnecessary risk"). The point of the calculation is to show that automation (or a similarly giant productivity gain) is necessary for a good future. Or are you saying it's so implausible that it's not worth thinking about?

I think the best argument against basic income is that it transfers vastly more economic power to politicians. That's what makes me take capital distribution seriously: put it right into people's hands, away from mob-shaped politicians and denial.

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