Thomas Kwa

Student at Caltech. Trying to level up.

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EA Relationship Status

I have two observations from the 2018 EA survey demographic data:

  • 80% of EAs are atheist/agnostic/non-religious and 3% are Buddhist, compared to 15-20% and 1% in the US population. These categories have lower marriage rates than the general population.
  • Because EAs tend to be so young (modal age 25), the median age of EAs in the 25-34 age group appears to be around 28, compared to around 30 for the general US population. Similarly, the median age within the 35-44 age group appears to be around 38, compared to 40. Since marriage rate increases so sharply with age for people 25-34 with at least a bachelor's degree, this makes a sizable difference in the expected marriage rate.
Thomas Kwa's Shortform

Given that social science research often doesn't replicate, is there a good way to search a social science finding or paper and see if it's valid?

Ideally, one would be able to type in e.g. "growth mindset" or a link to Dweck's original research, and see:

  • a statement of the idea e.g. 'When "students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits", they underperform students who "understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence." Carol Dweck initially studied this in 2012, measuring 5th graders on IQ tests.'
  • an opinion from someone reputable
  • any attempted replications, or meta-analyses that mention it
  • the Replication Markets predicted replication probability, if no replications have been attempted.
Is Wirecutter still good?

A glaring omission in Wirecutter's laptop recommendations: they say the HP Envy x360 13 is superior to their top picks, but don't list it. This is ostensibly due to stock shortages, but a slightly different configuration (with the 4700U) has been in stock for a while. This is important because it's $300-400 cheaper than their top picks. 

The 13-inch HP Envy x360 with an AMD Ryzen 5-4500U processor is an excellent ultrabook—it’s compact, light, and had nearly 12 hours of battery life in our tests. It has a great keyboard, a responsive trackpad, and a reliable fingerprint reader, and build quality just as good as our other picks. But the Envy x360 is out of stock everywhere, so we can’t recommend it.

They didn't recommend other laptops with AMD Ryzen 4000 CPUs either, which other reviewers say are significantly better and slightly cheaper than Intel 10th generation CPUs. They also didn't test the LG Gram (with an Intel CPU), whose previous iterations were excellent.

The Box Spread Trick: Get rich slightly faster

That's more or less right and clearer than how I wrote it up. Two slight nuances to the third point which I don't know if you understand correctly:

(a) 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.

(b) a box spread has two credit legs and two debit legs; if the value of your investments drops, the broker might sell the debit legs of the box spread rather than your other investments, which exposes you to extreme levels of risk.

The Box Spread Trick: Get rich slightly faster

The risk is small, because for most CDs the withdrawal penalty is small. My credit union allows partial withdrawals and charges a fee of 6 months' interest (about 0.625%) on the amount withdrawn, so if the market tanks 30% and you have to redeposit say 20% into the margin account, you have lost a negligible 0.125% and the box spread trick still comes out ahead for the year. 6 months' interest is typical. It's important to choose a bank or credit union that has reasonably lenient terms, though.

Should I floss?

Before October 2019, I didn't floss; as of July 2020 I floss on about 98% of nights. Flossing tends to remove minute amounts of food or plaque in my teeth such that my mouth feels cleaner in the morning and my breath smells better, so I would do it independently of any dental health benefit.

I'm not flossing particularly well, either: I floss both sides of every tooth but with just enough care to barely avoid slamming the floss into my gums every time; I don't unwind the floss to get a fresh piece on every tooth as is recommmended; I floss after brushing my teeth, not before; flossing takes me under a minute.

Thomas Kwa's Shortform

I'm thinking of a situation where there are subspecies A through (say) H; A can interbreed with B, B with C, etc., and H with A, but no non-adjacent subspecies can produce fertile offspring.

Thomas Kwa's Shortform

Are there ring species where the first and last populations actually can interbreed? What evolutionary process could feasibly create one?

Prediction = Compression [Transcript]

Videos have irremovable noise, but in some domains there is none and compression is more useful. In my experience, one example where the prediction-compression duality made problems much easier for humans to understand is in code golf (writing the shortest possible programs that perform various tasks). There's a Stack Exchange site dedicated to it, and over the years people have created better and better code-golf languages. Solution sizes shrunk by a factor of >3. Now they're so good that code golf isn't as fun anymore because the tasks are too easy; anyone fluent in a modern golfing language can decompose the average code golf problem into ten or twenty atomic functions.

Requesting feedback/advice: what Type Theory to study for AI safety?

I'm on a very similar path; DM me if you want my thoughts.

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