Thomas Kwa

Student at Caltech.

Thomas Kwa's Comments

What are the best tools for recording predictions?

I've tried Metaculus private questions, Roam, and Google Sheets, and unfortunately find Google Sheets the least tedious. Metaculus questions are best when you revise predictions dozens of times, and Roam can't do much automatically yet.

Columns in the spreadsheet:

  • Date: date I make the prediction
  • Personal?: whether the prediction is about my own actions
  • Prediction: e.g. "I have 1000 LW karma by 2021"
  • Pro, Con: main reasons for/against, in a few words
  • %: predicted probability e.g .60
  • Outcome: 0/1 (haven't tried numerical data yet nor do I think it'll be worthwhile)
  • Hindsight: the probability I would have given in hindsight

I'm working on calibration, but also trying to identify patterns in mispredictions of myself that I can gain self-knowledge from, hence the extra information. It gets slow to load around 200 entries, but entering predictions using Google Forms could mitigate this (though I haven't tried it). The main advantage of a spreadsheet is the ability to customize graphs with relatively little effort.

How to learn from a stronger rationalist in daily life?

My hope is that I can gain more than the average Berkeley rationalist by being willing to commit to deliberate practice, maybe of some technique someone will mention here.

Also, I've never been, but have heard the Berkeley community in particular had problems. Do you think the benefit to living with rationalists depends on how well someone's social needs are met?

How to learn from a stronger rationalist in daily life?

Here's what I think I notice. When practicing the Training Regime sequence with Mark and some other friends, I felt stronger by the day. But since then, I think talking to stronger people I know has made me weaker. This is strange because, well, whenever I know someone else with expertise in a particular area, I tend to learn about it. I suspect that I'm learning to defer, because I'm only comfortable holding a separate belief from them when I cite someone even stronger (Yudkowsky, Ord, the stock market), and often not even then. There could be other effects that make me weaker, but this is particularly scary because it's a vicious cycle.

My general plan to level up is to practice the CFAR techniques I can get immediate benefit from (TAPs, goal factoring) and the skills I need the most work with (probably Noticing, Murphyjitsu, Deflinching, getting myself to practice, and knowing when to build form on a small problem vs tackle a big one). I expect this to take a few months, possibly longer if I hit more pitfalls.

Eventually I want to make interventions roughly as successful as Brienne Yudkowsky c. 2015, and move on to difficult techniques like CoZE or mantras or something once I've taken the lower-hanging fruit. But this will probably take years.

Even though the current way I interact with strong rationalists is probably net-negative in the long run, I feel like it's an overreaction to completely neglect the resource and slog through everything on my own. Also, maintaining the friendship more or less requires talking about rationality if the friendship is mostly based on it. The admittedly weak inference I make here is that I want an exercise that does not teach me to defer, or some way of talking to people about rationality in general that avoids the temptation to defer. Or addresses other problems with the default approach that I don't notice yet.

What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

I've long tried to block distraction in the absence of something else I enjoyed. I used Cold Turkey to commit to blocking websites for the next 1-2 months, which has the ability to add websites to the filter whenever I wanted. I use iOS Screen Time blocks to lock myself out of my own phone. The idea is that most distractions are bad coping mechanisms, but some are worse than others. For example, the internet browser on my phone is far worse for my sleep than podcasts.

Quarter-on-quarter improvements to my blocking strategy are hard to see on a graph, but I notice that removing these blocks immediately reduces my productivity by 25-70% with similarly dramatic effects on my sleep and mood. It's closer to 70% when I don't enjoy my current work, so mitigating distractions in this regime is possible, just difficult.

The EMH Aten't Dead

Otherwise, a hedge fund could make huge profits by just doing the opposite.

Do we know that this isn't currently happening, i.e. that observing what retail investors buy and betting against them isn't a major profit stream for hedge funds?

The EMH Aten't Dead

Indeed, Jalex Stark is a quant and says: "I spend most of my days working on specific (proprietary) instances of the general problem "design and enact decision procedures that identify market inefficiencies as well as possible, measured in terms of maximizing the ratio (expected value in dollars of trading against the inefficiency) / (amount of human time required to find the inefficiency and execute the trades)."

What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

This comment makes a lot of sense, and is consistent with consensus on Stack Exchange. For this reason, I've changed my voting method from my previous policy of voting independently of the current score.

What are your greatest one-shot life improvements?

Did you already want to stop smoking at the time you read it?

Tips/tricks/notes on optimizing investments

Some online reviews say there are delays in withdrawal from high-yield savings accounts from lesser-known online-only banks. Since liquidity is the whole point of having money in savings accounts, do you think it's better to stick with e.g. AmEx and Ally?

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