All of Vaste's Comments + Replies

MIRI's Winter 2013 Matching Challenge

Well, if it's a stable income then there's nothing wrong with a little celebration. Could be worth it for the boost in self-esteem from being able to contribute to something one feels is genuinely good and special.

MIRI's Winter 2013 Matching Challenge

What about CFAR this year? Should I consider donating to their 2013 Winter Matching Fundraiser instead of to MIRI?

Last year I remember someone (Eliezer?) wrote a somewhat confusing recommendation as to which one one should donate to.

A quick glance at their progress reveals that the MIRI one has almost reached its goal of $250k whereas CFAR has only gotten $8k so far (but also has another two weeks to go).

MIRI's fundraiser has gone surprisingly well surprisingly quickly, so if you're happy to support either organization, then at this point it probably makes sense to give to CFAR's fundraiser.

Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others...

Yes, but there can be long delays between a donation happening and updates. Coordinating donations can be non-trivial, especially when flash crowds appear (e.g. sob story on reddit).

Also, such a randomized approach is not necessary if one can just donate small amounts to multiple projects instead (i.e. if transaction fees are not a problem).


I once donated some money to VillageReach a few minutes before getting the GiveWell newsletter issue announcing that VillageReach wasn't going to be among the top charities in the next update because their founding gap had mostly closed and encouraging people to wait for the next update before deciding whom to donate money to. True story!

Ethics of piracy

There's also government contracting, which is a similar situation, but with lowest bidder instead.

Ethics of piracy

Well some would do it that way. But consider the possibility of cooperation instead of competition. Completely non-crippled software exists today already (open source). Crippling your software to make it scarce means it has to beat the competition by a larger margin. People must decide if the inconvenience is worth it. There's also the risk of a culture that detests crippling develops that "frees" your software, despite attempts at crippling (e.g. cracking games).

Also, societies unwilling to accept the zero-cost of copying will still have piracy,... (read more)

-1Clippy10yA society that has a norm of honoring (creator-desired) exclusivity in creators' informational creations (i.e. location of narrow, high-value targets within designspace), will be able to use both modes of creation -- those that do and do not expect exclusivity (and its resultant monetary or aesthetic returns). Certainly, the society without anti-piracy social norms can use the method you have labeled cooperative, but so can the one with strong anti-piracy norms. However, the former is cut off from finding the targets that actually do need a monetary incentive to motivate their discovery. In much the same way, societies with a strong norms against monetary profit (esp in the production of physical goods such as food) can still engage in "communal" production but run up against strong barriers to producing advanced economy goods that require extensive specialization and concentrated risk-taking.
Ethics of piracy

There's a basic information asymmetry there which I'd expect to make people averse -- and justifiably so -- to letting go their money.

What asymmetry?

I can think of two problems (context being writers and books):

  • first book by a new writer pretty much has to be free. No one trusts him.
  • a famous (trusted) writer writes crap book or no book, but gets money anyway. He loses trust. ("Trust" becomes new world currency?)

In a way, the relationship writer - readers becomes more similar to that of employee - employer.

0Nornagest10yReaders have more information about the quality of a new book in a business model where the book exists publicly and can be browsed in a bookstore, borrowed from friends, etc. than in a business model where the book has no public existence until bought and paid for. This can be diluted somewhat by giving out sample chapters, advance copies for reviewers (but they'd better be trusted reviewers), et cetera, but nonetheless I'd expect it to push willingness to pay down at the margins. Especially taking hyperbolic discounting [] into account -- readers will generally pay more for a book today than a book to be published at some indefinite point in the future. The marginal cost of producing new digital copies of a book is miniscule, so it might still end up being favorable to an (established) author relative to dead-tree publishing -- but compared to self-published digital media sold per copy, I'd expect it to come out to a loss. There are other piracy-friendly business models out there, though -- I'm rather fond of Baen's Free Library [], for all that their books are unabashed pulp.
Ethics of piracy

The computer together with the Internet may be the most amazing invention in human history. We now have the means to allow all human beings access to all information of our entire race! No matter if you're a (not too) poor farmer in Africa or a bank executive, the only thing you need is a computer and Internet access, and it costs nothing more (well there's electricity). Yet we choose to limit this fantastic invention and deny the poor farmer access.

If food was free would we then limit it, for fear that there might not be enough new dishes invented? Surely... (read more)

Ethics of piracy

What would making piracy legal really imply? (I.e. assume there are no IP rights/restrictions/monopolies.) How would a company like Adobe make money that way? This is something worth considering.

How might programmers make money? The people who buy the software (e.g. a database for a warehouse) still needs it, and would still be willing to pay for someone to make it. The company may also try to keep it local and secret, if the warehouse database is a strategic advantage. Or they might share it if they care more about e.g. the better quality that naturally c... (read more)

-1Clippy10yTrue: in the absence of anticipation of exclusivity rights, creators would seek ways to repoduce the pseudo-scarcity that socially-recognized exclusivity rights would otherwise provide. And they will generally do so via less efficient means: for example, rather than giving the user a copy of the software, the creator will keep it in a "black box" they control, and simply perform the input/output over a network, incurring strictly more overhead than if they could trust the user to keep their own copy and not distribute it. This phenomenon mirrors the more general ones of how: * societies with people more willing to steal others' physical possessions will still find ways to be secure in such possessions, but by diverting more resources to securing them; or * societies with people less willing to trust strangers (or honor promises made to strangers) will still make credit transactions, but have to spend significantly more on enforcement mechanisms.
0Nornagest10yThat sounds like the threshold pledge system [], which is fairly common in the nonprofit world and has been applied to a few media projects that I'm aware of. Kickstarter is probably the most famous service to use the model. I am not an economist, but I wouldn't expect it to generate the funds of sale by unit if widely adopted. There's a basic information asymmetry there which I'd expect to make people averse -- and justifiably so -- to letting go their money.
The Strangest Thing An AI Could Tell You

Improving after practicing in a simulation doesn't sound that far-fetched to me. Especially not considering that they probably already have plenty of experience to base their simulation on.

Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others...

Perhaps a better idea would be to spend money on education of women in poor areas, something that is known to reduce the fertility rate. By reducing the fertility rate we also reduce the number of poor, starving, dying in HIV etc children born into this world.

I think that simply measuring the number of dead children may be useful as a simplification, but it's too simplistic. Really, to me it seems like it's just something that people believing in axiomatic morals are having problems dealing with. "But, think of the children!"

If the answer to "is it better to spend this money on saving a kids life?" is always yes, I'd say you have a problem with your value system.

Efficient Charity: Do Unto Others...

I've thought about this problem before, but in the context of peer peer-to-peer file sharing.

The problem is that everyone is acting independent and with limited knowledge. It's hard to know what other people are choosing. There may also be long delays between you and others paying and the cost changing.

Say that the optimal outcome is that out of $1000M, $200M is spent on insect nets and $800M on wells, and that you can only donate to one charity (too bothersome or high transaction costs or something). Now, if everyone is rational they are going to donate t... (read more)

2a_gramsci10yThe thing about that is, is that not everyone is donating at the same time, so that they can see the expected value change.