Timothy Underwood

Wiki Contributions


Book summary: Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids

So basically what Bryan Caplan is claiming is that all of the theories that say there are huge effects visible in people over 25 years old from early childhood parenting (at least from differences in early childhood parenting that are part of the normal distribution in our society) are wrong. Caplan is saying they are wrong because identical twin adoption studies show that identical twins raised apart are very similar on the measured variables, and also that the measured variables capture what we actually care about.

Does this actually contradict the evidence base saying that, having been abused as a child, for example, is bad for adults? 

First I don't know the literature on the effects of child abuse in adults. It is clear that correlational studies are not going to be able to tell you whether bad outcomes are due to some other factor (genetics, class status, local culture) that is strongly associated with also being abused as a child. But perhaps some of these studies use identical twins, or have found another reliable way to disentangle causality and reliably show that it was specifically the child abuse that caused the later problems. 

Assume that child abuse does cause 'long-lasting psychological damage to the future adult.' Or alternatively lets simply look at the very well attested point that children are better at learning languages than adults. Do either of these outcomes disagree with Bryan Caplan's argument that what you do as a parent doesn't matter very much?

I'd argue that Caplan's actual argument is still solid. The reason that it is still solid is that you are referring to long term effects from extreme changes in how the child is treated, rather than from switching from a high stress/ high pressure version of normal middle class parenting to a low stress version of normal middle class parenting. Ie from lots of extra curriculars to a few extra cirriculars. 

The evidence base Caplan depends on with identical twin studies by construction only involves parents who were able to convince an adoption board that they would be responsible. There are unlikely to be very many extremely bad or weird parents in this group. The evidence for the result only holds within this range. And Caplan's claim also was only that you can aim for the low stress part of this range because being a very good parent inside this range doesn't make much difference relative to being a below average parent within this range.

Postmodern Warfare

Yeah, I read that bit in the article when Bret Deveraux linked to it, and I winced hard at this confidence that China's approach of wanting to use lots of AI was obviously was a bad idea. 

Schools probably do do something

An excellent argument -- though obviously not conclusive.

The first alternative idea that comes to my mind is that you could just be teaching the oldest kids in those classes to see themselves as high status and that you could get the same effect through any other intervention that encourages particular kids to see themselves as better than other kids.

Certainly this seems to be an example of school doing something.

Online LessWrong Community Weekend

Agreeing with the request, I don't think I ever saw a response to the application

Are PS5 scalpers actually bad?

The drip feed idea sounds really unlikely. The scalper is not a monopolist over the sales of PS5s, so he is accepting the market price, and can't raise it by unilaterally not offering supply. For that to happen the scalpers would need to coordinate.

Scott Alexander 2021 Predictions: Buy/Sell/Hold

Yeah, I read that as a cumulative case statement (and I also thought Scott made the prediction before the current explosion in counts).

I also find it really interesting living in Hungary the way that the Covid numbers are being talked about in India. The official numbers just don't seem very bad yet. OTOH Hungary managed to top the world leagues in something everyone talks about for the first time since it lost its most suicides per capita crown to some other depressed Eastern European nation (I'm guessing that is who took it from the Hungarians), so I think my sense of how bad particular Covid numbers are is skewed by living here.

We will get to stop worrying about Covid a full month earlier than the rest of the EU though, so that's good.

Thirty-three randomly selected bioethics papers

I like the edit. Be the person who you want to see in the world. Also visibly model behaviors you want to encourage. 


Some blindspots in rationality and effective altruism

Yeah, I really like this idea -- at least in principle. The idea of looking for value agreement and where do our maps (that likely are verbally extremely different) match is something that I think we don't do nearly enough.

To get at what worries me about some of the 'EA needs to consider other viewpoints discourse' (and not at all about what you just wrote, let me describe two positions:

  1. EA needs to get better at communicating with non EA people, and seeing the ways that they have important information, and often know things we do not, even if they speak in ways that we find hard to match up with concepts like 'bayesian updates' or 'expected value' or even 'cost effectiveness'. 
  2. EA needs to become less elitist, nerdy, jargon laden and weird so that it can have a bigger impact on the broader world.

I fully embrace 1, subject to constraints about how sometimes it is too expensive to translate an idea into a discourse we are good at understanding, how sometimes we have weird infohazard type edge cases and the like.

2 though strikes me as extremely dangerous.

To make a metaphor: Coffee is not the only type of good drink, it is bitter and filled with psychoactive substances that give some people heart palpitations. That does not mean it would be a good idea to dilute coffee with apple juice so that it can appeal to people who don't like the taste of coffee and are caffeine sensitive.

The EA community is the EA community, and it currently works (to some extent), and it currently is doing important and influential work. Part of what makes it work as a community is the unifying effect of having our own weird cultural touchstones and documents. The barrier of excluisivity created by the jargon and the elitism, and the fact that it is one of the few spaces where the majority of people are explicit utilitarians is part of what makes it able to succeed (to the extent it does). 

My intuition is that an EA without all of these features wouldn't be a more accessible and open community that is able to do more good in the world. My intuition is an EA without those features would be a dead community where everyone has gone on to other interests and that therefore does no good at all.

Obviously there is a middle ground -- shifts in the culture of the community that improve our pareto frontier of openness and accessibility while maintaing community cohesion and appeal.

However, I don't think this worry is what you actually were talking about. I think you really were focusing on us having cognitive blindspots, which is obviously true, and important. 

Some blindspots in rationality and effective altruism

The way I've tended to think about these sorts of questions is to see a difference between the global portfolio of approaches, and our personal portfolio of approaches.

A lot of the criticisms of EA as being too narrow, and neglecting certain types of evidence or ways of thinking make far more sense if we see EA as hoping to become the single dominant approach to charitable giving (and perhaps everything else), rather than as a particular community which consists of particular (fairly similar) individuals who are pushing particular approaches to doing good that they see as being ignored by other people.

Return to New York City

Fun as a travelogue and description of eating great food that is making me long for eating at places that I really love again too. Mainly having non stop Mexican next time I go home to California again -- Mexican food really, really, really just isn't the same in Budapest.

Though if you ever are in Hungary, you need to try langos.

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