All of waveman's Comments + Replies

Two ominous charts on the financial markets

are the "adjusted earnings over the last 10 years" adjusted for inflation?

Generally CAPE past earnings are adjusted to inflation.

Historically the stock market has responded badly over time to a rapid change upwards in inflation particularly if interest rates rise correspondingly, due to valuation effects ("net present value") . Subsequently once the market has fallen it tends to act as a reasonable inflation hedge. Typically this occurs around the point when Time Magazine has a front cover saying something like "The Death of Equities".

Different stocks respond differently to inflation. Consider the analogy of the Nifty Fifty of the late 1960s and the high flying tech stocks of today.

Two ominous charts on the financial markets

TINA. There is no alternative.

When required to be fully invested this is trueish.

However you can sit in cash while no appealing investments exist. And buy in size when prices become more appealing. 

inb4 market timing is not possible

Have a look at Warren Buffett's track record and the amount of cash he held in early 2000 and now.

6SimonM19dI'm not sure what you consider to be "neutral" to hold, but forward returns for holding cash don't look great either. (I'm also not sure what you're trying to say about Warren Buffett, can you be more explicit)
Should I blog on LessWrong?

There is virtually no information here that would allow us to infer how useful your posts might be. So I have no idea. 

If you do post, I would suggest limiting posts that mostly talk about yourself and contain little information that is of general interest. I suggest focusing on the question "how can I add value to others".

Consider link posting a choice few of your existing material to see what the reaction is. 

If you do post, I would suggest limiting posts that mostly talk about yourself and contain little information that is of general interest. I suggest focusing on the question "how can I add value to others".

I actually disagree with this, and so does the LW team. From the FAQ:

What can I post on LessWrong?

Posts on practically any topic are welcomed on LessWrong. I (and others on the team) feel it is important that members are able to “bring their entire selves” to LessWrong and are able to share all their thoughts, ideas, and experiences without fearing

... (read more)
Getting diagnosed for ADHD if I don't plan on taking meds?

First you would get a breakup of the particular strengths and weaknesses that you have (similar to getting an IQ test it is not just a number but the breakup into areas of strengths and weaknesses can be quite useful).

Second they would be able to help with strategies to deal with the ADHD.

Third it gives you optionality about taking meds i.e. it gives you the option to try them lateron.

The Intense World Theory of Autism

Great article. Thank you!

I also highly commend reading the original paper  referenced in the article. (full text available here Reading the original paper was quite a revelation to me. How many things are parsimoniously explained by this hypothesis.... how many things suddenly make sense. As opposed to the jumble of unrelated facts seen in most academic summaries of Autism.

There is of course opposition to the hypothesis but there has also been considerable confirmation as a look at google scholar will easily show.

What if we should use more energy, not less?

Indeed at a first approximation technology is about finding cool ways to use cheap energy. 

What if we should use more energy, not less?

Solar power in particular has plummeted in cost by many orders of magnitude

You need to take into account the base here. Same with batteries. If something goes from ludicrously expensive to just plain very expensive, it is not so impressive. 

I spent 3 months trying to put together a picture of what a 100% renewable energy economy would look like. When you take into account a) the need to build and maintain the RE infrastructure using RE (currently it is almost all done with fossil fuels for cost reasons) b) the vast infrastructure needed per Gw generat... (read more)

1greylag3moThis is somewhat true for the capital cost of the backup/dispatchable plant, but not the operating cost, which includes fuel, and any notion of the cost of the emissions (whether via carbon tax, cap and trade, or notional non–financial cost) (and, as far as AGW is concerned, the emissions are the important factor here).
3Wei_Dai3moI would love to see a detailed write-up about this, or absent that, what do you think is the best currently available write-up on this topic, that comes closest to the truth? What's the source of this? I've only seen talk of ~30-year lifetimes for solar, for example []
Sunscreen: much more than you wanted to know

Limitations of the study of sunscreen which make it inconclusive -

1. They only measured blood levels during summer. They would have declined in winter, and were not actually that terrific in either group even at the end of summer, though not at the levels of frank deficiency. Differences would have widened over winter and with ongoing use/non-use of sunscreen over time, as vitamin D is stored in body fat.

2. The study was small and short term and thus major effects could show up as N.S. E.g the 50% greater increase in the placebo group of over 70s was not f... (read more)

Sunscreen: much more than you wanted to know

Also endorphins (opiate type things). 

This is why a friend described taking heroin as like being "bathed in golden sunlight". 

Obesity Epidemic Explained in 0.9 Subway Cookies

I find this post naive, like much writing on weight management. 

I have struggled with my weight for 40 years (BMI currently 26, slightly overweight but strangely enough the level at which death rates are lowest). And I have read just about every book on the subject and cubic meters of academic papers. Perhaps I have learned something. 

> things that will help

I tried all, yes all, those things over the years. Some worked, a bit, temporarily and none worked permanently. I agree that they are plausible stories but they are nothing more.

What ... (read more)

This matches my experience very closely as well, though I'm only about halfway to my goal (dropped from 238 to 215, want to get down to the low 190s) after 4 years of trying a bunch of different things.

What the OP is suggesting doesn't work in practice for rats and mice, let alone humans who have many more levers with which to confound simple interventions through behavior, conscious or not.

It took me eight years to gain 40 pounds. That's a difference of about 50-200 calories per day (increasing as base weight rises and it takes more food to generate a sus... (read more)

1skot5235moI'll throw in with you here, I think calories fundamentally is missing something. Not sure what it is yet, but I argued for suspecting vegetable oils. For anyone who naturally keeps a healthy weight, my intuition is: how hard would it be to lose 10 lbs from here? That would be hard as hell for me, and I have no reason to disbelieve people who have trouble getting to a healthy weight--especially in light of the contents of this post--it would only take a slight surplus to start getting really bad. My question for you--could you elaborate just how useful avoiding vegetable oils is for you? And you wouldn't have happened to have run an experiment where you just avoided them but nothing else? A man can hope!
2gilch6moDo you expect agave to be worse and glucose syrup (Karo) to be less bad as a sweetener than table sugar (sucrose) or high-fructose corn syrup?
Delta variant: we should probably be re-masking

"Here’s what that looks like in the context of exponential growth:"

True but actually it is worse than this. As places like Australia are finding, it is not just a matter of a different growth rate. Measures that stopped the pandemic in its tracks before fail completely in the face of delta.

I would also point out that this is looking a bit like the Spanish Flu (which apparently actually started in the US midwest). Later variants were more infectious and attacked younger people more severely. 

I can attest from personal experience that you do not want to... (read more)

Covid 7/15: Rates of Change

"I worry that recently I’ve lacked sufficient skin in the game. Everyone I personally care about is vaccinated or young enough that they don’t need vaccination, so the real sense of danger is largely gone."

[Quotes because editing after using ">" for quotes is totally broken here.]

The strategies being employed at the moment in countries partially but not sufficiently vaccinated are to a close approximation the optimum for evolving viruses that are more transmissible to vaccinated people. We have a huge number of infected and a huge number vaccinated in t... (read more)

3CellBioGuy6moHonestly I think it's quite the opposite. There is no particular reason that lineages that escape immune reactions would be more likely to be driven into existence in a population largely vaccinated or largely infected, and you don't talk about this in the context of people who have been naturally infected. We are pulling the inevitable, the time that everyone has immune memory, closer in time to the present and ensuring that we get there with fewer rounds of viral replication in the mean time.
9Lukas_Gloor6moI tried estimating the chance that a new variant would arise in the UK in the next couple of months: Note that I don't necessarily predict a new variant to be more deadly by itself. (But it would be more deadly given better resistance to vaccines.) It's indeed scary that the same experiment will be run across many countries, so in absolute terms, the odds are much larger than what's correct for the UK for the next couple of months. But the risks per country are heavily correlated (are there low-hanging mutations that increase transmissibility?), and overall I'm not sure I'd go above 40% for a new superbad variant in 2021. I think this is partly also influenced by having read some experts express a lot of confidence that the antibodies to the spike protein, especially from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, are fairly hard to circumnavigate when you're the virus, because probably all Covid viruses need some kind of similar-looking spike protein. Even so, you could get a variant where infection is reduced by 50-70% after two shots of Pfizer, instead of the 15-30% we see currently. That would basically guarantee that nearly everyone gets exposed to long Covid risks of having to go through one illness.
You are allowed to edit Wikipedia

This was, I think, a reasonable characterisation of wikipedia in the early days. Things are very different now. 

You have to navigate a gauntlet of deletionistas, poorly defined rules, gatekeepers, and political biases. I gave up a  couple of years ago. The most difficult aspect is the arbitrary rules about what sources are authoritative and what are not.

One small example: You are (or were when I looked) required to refer to male genital mutilation as "circumcision" and are not allowed to refer to it as "male genital mutilation". The female versio... (read more)

Wikipedia’s articles on circumcision and FGM include coverage of the ethical controversy both around the practice (in the case of male circumcision) and the colonialism inherent in the name (in the case of FGM).

Their page on source selection states:

“ Many Wikipedia articles rely on scholarly material. When available, academic and peer-reviewed publications, scholarly monographs, and textbooks are usually the most reliable sources. However, some scholarly material may be outdated, in competition with alternative theories, or controversial within the relevan... (read more)

8ChristianKl7moIf you are alone you need to understand the rules reasonably well. What I propose here is just to raise issues on talk pages and if someone else already wrote something make a new argument. Often this doesn't take long. Rules in Wikipedia are a matter of consensus. If you care about the rules it's easy to give your opinion when rule changes get proposed. [] is a way to register yourself to get regularly a message on your talk page for one rules discussion. While a user that only participates in rule discussion and nothing else is likely seen as a bit dubious, if you write short messages on the talk page whenever you think something should be improved, Wikipedia's rule is to use the terms that are most commonly used by authoritative sources out in the world. Given how language is used out in the world it's often not consistent. It doesn't matter whether it's a hot button political issue or an unpolitical one's like deciding whether to use the greek or latin name for an anatomical structure where things would get easier when latin names get used consistently. That's not true. If you could for example argue that authoritatie sources like the New York Times and the Washington Post use another term then the doctors you have a case within the rules of Wikipedia. While you can argue that rules should be different (and you actually can argue that in RFC's in Wikipedia) it's deferring to authoritative sources is a rule that works for finding consensus. I think this misunderstands Wikipedia. Wikipedia's goal isn't truth but to reflect the current consensus among good sources. This is argued quite explicitely. I do think that a place where I can go when I want to read the consensus among good sources about a topic is valuable.

You are not allowed to refer to primary sources such as journal articles but must only refer to secondary sources such as textbooks or newspapers

This is not true. I could drone on about the Official Policy but maybe the better rule-of-thumb is:

(1) Don't edit articles to push one side of an existing hot-button political issue, it's hopeless unless you have a ton of wikipedia experience and a ton of free time,

(2) If you write things that are correct and widely-accepted, they're pretty unlikely to be deleted, regardless of what source you cite, or even if you... (read more)

4gareth7moThis seems a little harsh. Sure Wikipedia has many rules, mostly to prevent bias or people pushing agendas. It’s not perfect, but in general I have found it to be a reliable, neutral source of information especially in controversial subjects such as Middle East politics for example. Also research shows that Wikipedia is a reliable source [] although I’m sure you can find research that shows the opposite. And as the original poster says, if you find something inaccurate, spend 5 minutes to give back and fix it. I have made hundreds of small edits and maybe only a handful have been deleted / rolled back I can’t talk about your specific examples of course but I would trust (cited) articles on Wikipedia above most sources on the web.
How do the ivermectin meta-reviews come to so different conclusions?

Well worth reading the linked material - quite damning.

How do the ivermectin meta-reviews come to so different conclusions?

I read the negative paper (I had already read the positive one). 

The positive one concludes, rightly I think, that there is evidence falling short of proof that IM is likely to be useful. 

I am not at all happy with the negative paper. 

1. Lots of highly emotive language against IM suggesting a lack of objectivity. Another thing suggesting lack of objectivity is that they put <did not find IM useful> in their list of strengths. I wonder who would find this a strength and why? Also sneering about studies done in low income countries did n... (read more)

3ChristianKl7moThe number I have in memory is that it takes roughly a week. If you think it's longer, can you point me to a resource?
2ChristianKl7moProphylaxis is a strong point given it's potential effect but given that other studies found that currently the evidence for treatment effects is higher then the evidence for prophylaxis, focusing on the issue that's more studied seems reasonable to me I consider the other points more concerning. At the moment that raises the question to me whether it makes sense to order Ivermectin from India (likely takes a month to arrive). Given that Delta is enough to produce r>1 in the UK in summer while people are more outside and the UK has still a lot of restrictions while having 85% with one vaccination dose and 50% fully vaccinated, Delta Plus already having a mutation that makes it likely better at evade vaccines, a new wave in autumn seems very likely to me.
How do the ivermectin meta-reviews come to so different conclusions?

Is there any kind of resource that reliably turns up high-quality papers?

No you just have to filter. In any particular field you get to know the agendas and limitations of many of the researchers. X is a shill for company Y, A pushes the limits for p hacking, B has a fixed mindset about low fat diets. etc. Some researchers also tend to produce me-too and derivative papers, others are more innovative.

Also you do get quicker at spotting the fatal flaw. 

In finance there are blogs that pick out recent good papers; these are a huge time saver (e.g. Alpha Architect which I have mentioned before).

How do the ivermectin meta-reviews come to so different conclusions?

Some general comments about medical research. Source: I have studied the statistics books in detail, and have read several cubic meters of medical papers and learned most of the lessons the hard way. 

When reading medical papers look for 

1. Funding sources for the study or for the authors of the study (e.g. "speaking fees" and "consulting fees"). He who pays the piper calls the tune. 

2.  Statistical incompetence, which is rife in medical research. For example, you routinely see "lack of statistical significance" interpreted as "proo... (read more)

3Mitchell_Porter7moThis all sounds rather grim, an extreme case of the hype and uneven quality that probably afflicts all research areas now... Number 8 seems especially grim, even though it doesn't involve outright corruption, since it means that any counter-institution trying to do quality control will be overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of papers... Nonetheless: What you describe is a way to check the quality of an individual paper. Is there any kind of resource that reliably turns up high-quality papers? Perhaps literature reviews or citation counts?
How do the ivermectin meta-reviews come to so different conclusions?

and other says "is not proven"

In the abstract they make a definitive statement that IM is not useful. This goes well past any rational or reasonable interpretation of the evidence. This raises the question of bias / motivated reasoning. I will read the paper in full today and may comment further.

I read the negative paper (I had already read the positive one). 

The positive one concludes, rightly I think, that there is evidence falling short of proof that IM is likely to be useful. 

I am not at all happy with the negative paper. 

1. Lots of highly emotive language against IM suggesting a lack of objectivity. Another thing suggesting lack of objectivity is that they put <did not find IM useful> in their list of strengths. I wonder who would find this a strength and why? Also sneering about studies done in low income countries did n... (read more)

War on Cancer II

Bear in mind a lot of studies are for me-too drugs i.e. slight variants of existing drugs that have the tremendous advantage of being patentable, even if they are no better. Such trials provide little benefit to humanity.

As a fellow member of the reluctant brotherhood I have seen many friends enter trials only to suffer greatly with no, or even a negative, effect on survival. (Sometimes, I suspect, people will have treatment because it allows them to avoid facing The Horrible Truth*). 

*That they are indeed mortal.

War on Cancer II

heart disease deaths are a third of what they were in 1950,  (thanks to innovations like statins, stents, and bypass surgery.)

I had a look into this a while back. My conclusion was that two big factors in the reduction in heart attack death rates (not numbers) was in large part due to the reduction in smoking rates particularly in older people and the dramatic reduction in the use of toxic trans fats in processed foods and butter substitutes. 

The evidence for the life-saving qualities of the 3 items listed was not very strong in the studies I ciy... (read more)

3ChristianKl7moI think understanding heart diesease both why it went down and what we can do to reduce it further is a whole other topic then cancer and while I'm also not sure about statins I didn't went deeper into that. When it comes to reduction in smoking reducing heart attacks, we would also expect that it reduces cancer rates.
ELI12: how do libertarians want wages to work?

You don't mention which libertarian works you consulted in forming your views on the topic. A very accessible introduction is "What it means to be a libertarian" by Charles Murray.

This point of view is very old e.g. the early Daoist works have libertarian threads. So you don't have to imagine what libertarians think, and they have been thinking hard about the issues for a long time. 

One thing that surprises many people is the enthusiastic support among many libertarians for collective action and for cooperative organisations. The caveat being that the... (read more)

1TekhneMakre7mo[shortening of another comment] I'm wondering how people think that wage negotiations would work out in a libertarian world, and in particular whether there are arguments that the results would be Just or good or something. Rather than e.g. the wealthiest purchasing and then enforcing a monopoly on violent force, or the workers doing the same.
Fauci’s Emails and the Lab Leak Hypothesis

Some examples of possible misinterpretations would add value to your post.

With the climate emails part of the problem was the use of language in a different sense from its normal meaning. In scientific fields, trick is often used in the sense of a nifty hack, with nothing sinister implied. Just as in common parlance "theory" means something far less definite than it does in scientific discourse, more like what scientists would call a hypothesis.

I would add two other comments: 

1. As pointed out in the article, the fact that the lan leak was artificiall... (read more)

4Charlie Steiner7moSure. A lot of the editorializing seems like what I was talking about. For instance the people prevaricating, who have a specific motive inferred for them. Or the person who sent "we are all together you know" in an email, which sounds kind of like a conspiracy. Or the guy who brings up one version of the genetic engineering process at the beginning of february, says he'll know more later, and then 4 days later denounces a more general version of the genetic engineering hypothesis - he gets interpreted as a liar rather than someone learning more or changing his mind.
3ChristianKl7moThen write them in the comments. I intentionally added screenshots of all the emails so that's easy for people to offer alternative interpretations. In cases like the "weird trick" climate science emails hack it's really easy to provide alternative interpretations. That's right but my post is about things like after having a conferences call with other experts where some advocate hypothesis X and other Y saying three days later that X is a crackpot theory. Or calling for putting pressure on a team that's founded. In a case like getting words like trick/theory wrongly interpreted it's easy to provide alternative interpretations in the comments. While that is true in this post the arguments I'm making for that thesis are arguments not made by landfish [] and by which they concluded 85% likelihood of a lab leak but mostly orthogonal to those arguments. In addition Eliezer was a month ago at 80% and Nate Silver at that time at 60%. Are there any people in our community who have an openly stated probability that's still under 50%?
The aducanumab approval

There is a whole hierarchy of incentives to medical people at different levels in the system. 

At the bottom
1. Free samples
2. Free education. 
3. Cute/good looking drug reps...

The free education comes with a nice meal and convivial company. You just need to sit through the drug company propaganda, which is duly accredited as good for mandatory training hours. What happens if your prescribing fails to conform to the desired profile? You don't get invited to the next "free" training. 

At the top (influential professors):
1. Funding for studies&nbs... (read more)

The aducanumab approval

I have begun to think that the biggest factor in a drug being approved is drug company sponsorship, and thus the potential for drug company profits. Patentability appears to be a big factor. 

See "regulatory capture". 

Deliberately Vague Language is Bullshit

"Fit" is vaguer than BMI...

Which is in every way less precise and useful than body shape index (ABSI). BMI fails for: athletes and strong people, people over 50, smokers and ex-smokers, skinny-fat people; in fact it fails for most people. Maximum longevity is in the (mildly) overweight category of BMI.

ABSI predicts heart disease mortality far better than blood tests. BMI is not even in the race except at extremes.

This is a classic case of medicine's common practice of  persisting with inferior metrics and practices. My suspicion is that this is a resu... (read more)

Sympathy for the ferryman of Hades, or why we should keep Trump off Twitter

Wireheading is expanding rapidly.

At first it was drugs, with packaging and delivery carefully designed to maximize addictiveness.

Then gambling,  social media. 

More recently...

Stock brokers are increasingly leveraging the well-tested wireheading techniques used by casinos to make their customers into gambling addicts.

1CraigMichael9moI completely agree, and wasn't aware that stock brokers were doing this. This is a minor point--I wonder if it's worth coming up with another term for what people typically mean now when they say 'wireheading?' Recently when I see people using the term now, they almost never mean literally mean wireheading. I can't find the Tweet now, but I'm pretty sure I saw Roko describe masterbation as wireheading recently, when (absent some crazy tech you're applying to it) it's maybe one of the least cyberpunk things you can do in terms of our long human history of it []. People used to say things like "chasing the dragon's tail" or "pushing the envelope." I suppose they're both a bit more of a mouthful... It's a bit of a tangent, but just saying... EDIT: I suppose the article on it does say []: "If we take wireheading as a more general form of producing counterfeit utility, there are many examples of ways of directly stimulating of the reward and pleasure centers of the brain, without actually engaging in valuable experiences. Cocaine, heroin, cigarettes and gambling are all examples of current methods of directly achieving pleasure or reward, but can be seen by many as lacking much of what we value and are potentially extremely detrimental." I was taking it more as a "high-tech cyberpunky form of pleasure-seeking" but I suppose most people don't share the connotation.
7kithpendragon9moConfirmed. They've reached my co-workers. I can't get through a day without hearing these newly-minted day traders arguing about which crypto is going to do what. They specifically talk about how this is so much easier than going to the casino and still scratches the gambling itch. (sigh)
Why quantitative finance is so hard

Quants are bottlenecked by training data entropy.

Very true and often a big surprise to people. This is one reason people focus on high frequency trades - more data.

> diversification ... free lunch

Mostly true, but at the risk of pedantry it is not quite free. It is quite hard to find 10 good trades and far harder to find 100. Diversification can dilute alpha.

> World conditions change. Competing actors respond to the historical data.

Imagine how hard physics would be if the laws of physics changed whenever you got close the theory of everything. Or if mostly when theories were published they stopped working.

Best empirical evidence on better than SP500 investment returns?

Hmmm in order of certainty

1. Save and invest more = more total returns. 
2. Diversification is the only free lunch in finance.
3. A cautious approach to tilting investments in favour of various factors has a lot of evidence around it. See e.g. this blog
4. Strict adherence to dollar cost averaging. Much harder to do than it looks.

Also all the personal finance rules apply - avoid unprofitable debt, take out insurance. avoid financial catastrophes like divorce, maximize marketable job skills, save ha... (read more)

1bluefalcon9moThe one advantage I do have over the market is more risk tolerance. I don't assume I can beat it on a risk-adjusted basis, but since I disvalue risk less than normal ppl do, beating it in absolute expected value terms is fine, and even EMH says there should be opportunity to get higher returns that way. Will take a look at the alpha architect paper.
What weird beliefs do you have?

I had some exposure to this issue a couple of years ago. I got a speeding ticket, which eventually I got off of. 

During this process I documented the government making 26 different errors in all. Starting with the speed limit sign that did not comply with their own standards for speed limit signs in 3 different ways....

So I suspect that huge numbers of things go wrong in government all the time and are not noticed. What % of prisoners get checked as required? What fraction of video cameras are out of order at any given time? So the argument "Aha! The ... (read more)

What weird beliefs do you have?

Good post.

I have wondered about this myself actually. 

The sad thing is that if we mess it up, there is not enough time before the sun renders multicellular life untenable on earth to restore fossil fuels. So for earth we are the last roll of the dice.

Are there opportunities for small investors unavailable to big ones?

Can you describe to me a concrete trade which looks like: 20% return on $1000. (All the ones I can think of tend to be just as amenable to professionals). The other issue of playing in the "micro-investment" pool, is typically liquidity is much lower, so costs are higher.

Here is one example. About a month ago I bought the stock ASK:DSK. The daily trade volume is $AUD100-200k. That made it easy for me to buy $10k worth. It is now up 48%. My slippage was minimal - I was able to buy it all at the offer or better with no market impact. 

For someone with $1... (read more)

1SimonM9moYou've given an example which is already 10x what I asked for, and you could have plausibly done another 5x your size... I'm glad you made some money, but I don't think this is what I'm talking about
Are there opportunities for small investors unavailable to big ones?

I think the investment floor argument here is actually understated. 

Successful investors rapidly find themselves in a world where the vast majority of stocks are too small to buy. Try putting on a multi-million dollar position on for a stock that trades $10k/day on average.

Even index funds struggle with this. There are "small cap[italization]" index funds that have a median firm size of well over $1.6 Billion dollars larger than the vast majority of stocks. 

This is reflected also in research showing that fund managers do not exploit the small cap... (read more)

Reasonable ways for an average LW retail investor to get upside risk?

Anatomy of a bubble. 

1. People are not interested
2. People ask for advice on getting into the market.  
3. People give experienced traders advice on trading.
4. Crash.

I'd say we are between (2) and (3) at this stage.

Reasonable ways for an average LW retail investor to get upside risk?

the average trader

The average retail trader underperforms the market by 4-5% per annum before costs. Far worse than this after costs. Yes they have negative skill.

The average professional fund manager outperforms the market by less than 1% before the costs they charge to the punters. After costs they underperform. 

The average professional fund manager works very hard and has studied finance for years. 

My point is you need to do a lot better than average to win.

Yes, words can cause harm

To be of LW standard this essay should also steelman the opposing argument and assess it fairly 

Ie that Censorship of words can cause harm.

3kithpendragon1yUpon further reflection: consider the messages that censorship sends between one group and another. Then, I think you'll have your answer.
0kithpendragon1yThis isn't journalism. That would be another topic.
Leaky Delegation: You are not a Commodity


I found that often certifiers lack teeth and are more of a PR exercise that genuine quality control. Sometimes they are the real thing, sometimes not. 

A recent example would be various forms of "organic" certification which are highly variable in validity. You need to look at each case. One question to ask is how many people were denied certification or had certification withdrawn in the last 12 months? How many lawyers were actually struck off by the bar association and what did they have to do to get struck off? 

2Luke Allen1yWhich, indeed, is why I categorized "certification" as Status or marketing: the product gains standing in the eyes of whoever believes the certification has merit, but gains negative status with whoever distrusts the certifier.
Leaky Delegation: You are not a Commodity

An excellent and thoughtful post IMHO.

I would add the dimension of hidden or invisible quality.

Sometimes it is hard to determine or effectively specify the quality of an outsourced product or service. For example, if I go to a restaurant, I don't know if the chef washed his hands or has a cold or other illness. I don't know if they use cheap/semi-rancid seed oils or actually extra-virgin olive oil as claimed. Friends who worked in expensive restaurants claim that such cost-cutting is common, and it is almost invisible. My experience is that often when qual... (read more)

8ChristianKl1yHow did you find out?
Book Review: On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins (and Sandra Blakeslee)

I think it's a great book and anyone interested in the brain at a well informed layperson level would probably enjoy it and learn a lot from it.

Hawkins makes a good case for a common cortical algorithm - the studies involving ferrets whose visual nerves were connected to the audio centres and who learned to see are one compelling piece of evidence. He makes some plausible arguments that he has identified one key part of the algorithm - hierarchical predictive models - and he relates it in some detail to cortical micro-architecture. It is also quite interes... (read more)

2Steven Byrnes1yI'd be interested if you think my post Predictive Coding and Motor Control [] is helpful for filling in that gap.
The Perversity of High Standards

I don't think the problem in this case is one of excessively high standards. I think the problem is that our political system selects people who are good, talkers, who can spin a narrative, who can and do lie convincingly. 

After 50 years following politics my heuristic is to ignore what politicians say and watch only their actions. I find that what they say is generally devoid of useful information. The only conclusion one can draw is that they want you to believe what they are saying. 

Track record is the only useful guide to their likely future actions.

3Viliam1yThere is still difference between "X can lie convincingly" and "X lies completely transparently, but his voters don't care". With the former, you can try to convince his voters that he lied about something important. With the latter... you would just waste your time, they obviously don't care. It seems to me the latter are worse, but I cannot explain exactly why. Perhaps some intuition like "if voters forgive lies so easily, they would probably forgive other things, too". Or maybe a feeling "if people are trying, all hope is not lost yet" (here "people" refers to the voters, not the politicians). EDIT: Reading what I wrote here, I guess it's not about openly lying politicians being necessarily worse, but rather about this being an evidence that there is something seriously wrong with the voter base, which is even more dangerous in long term. There is of course a possibility that most voters do not genuinely approve of X being a liar, but still for some reason consider him a lesser evil compared to Y. Still makes me worry, because those voters may fix their cognitive dissonance in a way that will cause harm later.
Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over

then the risk for young and healthy people remains low


Don't confuse risk of death with risk overall. I personally know several young people who suffered months of debilitation, in some cases still feeling sick months later. From some limited studies this appears to be common, and permanent damage appears to be not uncommon including damage to testes, brain/memory etc. 

At best we do not know the long term effects. Tell someone suffering from shingles (which was eventually found to be a result of prior chicken pox infection) that chicken pox is a "mild" condition.

I stand by my claim. We know the effects 10 months out. If some studies have convinced you otherwise, it would be useful to cite the evidence (maybe in a separate post). 

Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over

One point not noted anywhere as far as I can see is that, by allowing the pandemic to spread to millions of people, the risk of a more dangerous or virulent strain appearing increased enormously.

If the pandemic had been kept to relatively small numbers, as in Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, Vietnam, Thailand, (China if you believe their statistics on this, unlike all their other statistics are correct) etc. this new more infective strain would likely never have appeared. 

1jmh1yWhat is the underlying argument here. I don't understand viral mutations sufficiently to know but have assumed they are largely random events. If so, isn't this claim a bit like a fair coin landing heads for the past 10 flips and claiming the odds of tails has not increase?
2Yitz1ythis is a really good point, and I haven't seen it mentioned anywhere either.
Covid 12/24: We’re F***ed, It’s Over

Does that [cutting cases by 50% per week] sound like something any Western country could possibly accomplish from here?

Yes. Have a look at the state of Victoria in Australia, which went from close to 700 cases a day in early August to zero in about 8 weeks.

I sympathise with people in countries run by incompetent buffoons (i.e. most of Europe and the Americas) but it is not inevitable.

Overall a terrific post - your point about the need to act before there is certainty is solid gold. 


2Baisius1yOne of the differences is that transmission is, for obvious reasons, much, much easier to control on an island. Hawaii isn't doing nearly as badly as the rest of the United States, for example.
7vsm1yAlso New Zealand, which has a handful of new cases trickling in from arrivals, but approximately zero community transmission due to the managed quarantine at the border. Even if this new strain has the increased transmissibility I expect NZ to not be anywhere near overwhelmed.
Probability theory implies Occam's razor

I am not sure you actually justified your claim, that OR follows from the laws of probability with no empirical input. 

Reading your arguments carefully you seem to have snuck in some prior knowledge about the universe (that age does not matter much to the weight of cows after a certain age for example). 

There is a big mystery to me as to why the universe is so simple e.g. the laws of physics can be written out (though not explained) in a few pages. Why are they so small, not to mention finite, not to mention not uncountable...

Marcus Hutter's AIXI has a prior that makes simple worlds more likely. See also

1Maxwell Peterson1yYes, the thing about the age is totally dependent on the actual state of the universe (or, put more mundanely, dependent on the actual things I know or think I know about cows). In regard to the short laws of the universe... I am saying that, if you’re already in the framework of probability theory, then you know you can’t gain from random guessing. Like how the optimal strategy for guessing whether the next card will be blue or red, in a deck 70% red, is “always guess red”. A hypothetical non-Occam prior, if it doesn’t tell you anything about cards, won’t change the fact that that this strategy is best. To convince someone who disagrees that this is true, using real examples, or actually drawing actual cards, would help. So again there I’d use empirical information to help justify my claim. I guess what I’m trying to say is: I didn’t mean to argue that everything I said was devoid of empiricism.
How We Failed COVID-19

Democracies seem to select leaders who are good talkers, but the selectivity for actual competence looks to be very weak. This is not a surprise; it has been commented on for millennia. Have a look at how ancient Athens got into the disastrous invasion of Sicily which ultimately led to its defeat by Sparta for example. 

Having done polling and talked to average voters it seems to me a miracle that sometimes half-decent leaders gets up. So an incompetent response is expected.

Some things not often mentioned with Taiwan's response to the coronavirus 2 pan... (read more)

1LukeOnline1yThese are all good points! They remind me of the "Swiss Cheese Model" in regards to COVID. No single solution is 100% effective, but combine enough layers and there won't be any 'holes' in the strategy anymore.
Are index funds still a good investment?

The academic research (e.g. Santa Fe institute work referenced in Jarrod Wilcox's "Investing by the Numbers", an excellent book for LessWrong-ish people), suggests that while truly passive indexers do not cause problems directly, they can cause problems in other ways. 

They tend to amplify the effects of momentum players and price insensitive growth-oriented traders for example. In sufficient numbers they can therefore indirectly destabilize the market.

When they are not really indexers but picking sectors to "index" in, they certainly can add to the chaos.

Are index funds still a good investment?

Throughout the last decade (or last 15 years, really), FAANG stocks (and QQQ) have consistently overperformed the market/index funds

True but you conveniently cut off the dot com crash, in which the NASDAQ QQQ crashed from 107 to 23 (79%) while the S&P500 only fell about 43%. In finance beware the selective "well chosen" example. 

From the 2000 top that is a return of only about 5% per annum compound. 

1Alex K. Chen1yThe dot-com crash was also preceded by an extremely obvious and unique bubble that has not been seen since - diversifying/rebalancing during a massive/obvious bubble doesn't take that much special skill or awareness, and we're more aware of bubble dynamics now than 2000.
Are index funds still a good investment?

markets are likely quite robust even to large amounts of so-called 'uniformed flow'

I don't agree and would be interested in evidence for this. Have a look at what happened in 1999-2000 and see if you still think this. Investors moved en masse into hot tech funds, many "index" funds. The fund managers were to a large degree helpless as they had to follow fund mandates. Fund managers who stood aside as the madness grew lost funds under management rapidly.

"Indexing" is not actually indexing if you don't own the whole market. That would include stocks, bonds a... (read more)

3mkov_blank1yGood point and indeed indexing played a prominent role in the late 90s tech boom; it was a broad market phenomenon, in contrast to the idea that it was a micro-speculative frenzy contained to things like zero-revenue IPOs. However, here I’ll expand on the meta-contrarian “bubble” point and offer that the dot com boom was not a case of markets gone haywire. I think we had a case for real technological prospects coupled with a market buying into the expectation that the Greenspan Fed was capable of providing nominal stability over the long-term. It perhaps serves as a positive case study as to why some economists bang the drum so strongly for nominal GDP-level targeting. With expectations of nominal stability, the hurdle to invest in high-risk, long time-horizon projects, is greatly reduced. This can effectively yoink away much of the equity risk premium and could justify the high valuations and low expected forward returns to equity that marked the 1999-2000 period. I’ll caveat by saying that this is currently just my working model of the late-90s, but it perhaps offers the deliciously contrarian view that managers just blindly dumping money into tech indices were actually not ‘uniformed flow’, even if they weren’t fully cognizant of the incentives they were responding to at the time
Prize: Interesting Examples of Evaluations

It would be helpful if you would explain what you mean by an "evaluation system". You seem to regard it as obvious. You provide no definition. You give a few examples. But do you really want people to have to spend time to reverse engineer what you are talking about.

When people put terms in quotes when not quoting someone, as you do, it usually signifies the use of those words in some non-standard manner. The fact that you put terms in quotes thus suggests to me that you are using the words in some unspecified non-standard manner.

I can guess what you might... (read more)

9ozziegooen1yThank you for raising the issue. Happy to clarify further. By evaluation we refer essentially[1] to the definition on Wikipedia page here []. By "interesting" we mean what will do well on the listed rubric. We're looking for examples that would be informative for setting up new research evaluation setups. This doesn't mean the examples have to deal with research, but rather that they bring something new to the table that could be translated. For example, maybe there's a good story of a standardized evaluation that made a community or government significantly more or less effective. [1] I say "essentially" because I can imagine that maybe someone will point out some unintended artifact in the definition that goes against our intuitions, but I think that this is rather unlikely to be a problem.
4Alexei1yI agree with the sentiment. Although I think this should be a comment, not an answer.
The central limit theorem in terms of convolutions

Key questions for me. 

1. Under what assumptions is the CLT valid? There seem to be many real world situations where it is not valid. E.g. finite variance is one such assumption. 

2. How easily can one check that the assumptions are valid in a given case? The very existence f fat tails can make it hard to notice that there are fat tails and easy to assume that tails are not fat.

2. Even when valid, how fast does the ensemble distribution converge, in particular how fast does the "zone of normality" spread? Even when CLT applies to the mean of the distribution it may not apply to the far tails for a long time.

Covid 11/12: The Winds of Winter

Specifically on the Pfizer press release. Due to various medical conditions I have been following medical research, press releases, government policy etc for many decades and have read cubic meters of medical research papers, textbooks, statistics texts etc.

TL;DR and one thing I have learned : A press release from a pharmaceutical company saying <thing> is very weak evidence that <thing> is true.

In any case realistically a vaccine rollout is extremely unlikely to be done before the end of 2021. This is a best case scenario. And we do not know the extent of the economic damage. 

1Kenny1yHow strong as evidence are similar press releases tho? Pharmaceutical companies create lots of press releases.

I totally agree that in general a press release is not strong evidence, but in this case we have additional sources of evidence, and also Pfizer has little incentive to put out hype if it can't deliver, unless I'm missing something. Would be very curious to know why they'd want to do that.

Dr. Fauci explicitly expects an EUA in December with some distribution, and widespread availability by April 2021. Pfizer claims they have 50mm doses now and will have over a billion next year. They say they can distribute the day after EUA, and that they intend to apply ... (read more)

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