Checkmate on blackmail?

It has been argued that blackmail should be legal if gossip is legal, and even that there are no good consequentialist counterarguments (!). I think this isn’t obvious because the disclosures incentivized by blackmail are systematically worse than gossip. Gossip has costs and benefits: on the one hand people learn information they can use to make better decisions … More Checkmate on blackmail?

Analyzing divestment

Suppose that I’m considering investing $1 in EvilCo (ticker EVL), but decide I don’t like the company’s activities so I refrain. Or maybe I decide to short EVL. Is this effective in reducing EvilCo’s activities? In this post I’ll argue: Divestment can be reasonably effective, despite replaceability. My best guess: I can often sacrifice <$1 … More Analyzing divestment

On redistribution

I’d prefer it if states took from the rich to give to the poor. But I wish they did it in a reasonably efficient way, such that poor people get about $1 of utility for every $1 of utility a rich person loses. I think we often fall short of that goal. (An expansion of … More On redistribution

EDT vs CDT 2: conditioning on the impossible

In my last post I presented a basic argument for EDT, and a response to the most common counterarguments. I omitted one important argument in favor of CDT—that EDT can involve conditioning on a measure zero event, yielding either undefined or undesirable behavior, while CDT is always well-defined. In this post I dive into that argument … More EDT vs CDT 2: conditioning on the impossible

Simplifying Avalon

Avalon has many complexities that become irrelevant given good enough play. If we remove those complexities the game can be played much more quickly (personally I also find the simpler version more aesthetically appealing): Only play the three largest (non-*) quests. (Skip the easier two quests.) The good players win immediately if a quest succeeds. … More Simplifying Avalon


There are many tricky questions in decision theory. In this post, I’ll argue that the choice between CDT and EDT isn’t one of them. Causal decision theory (CDT) evaluates expected utilities under causal interventions, while evidential decision theory (EDT) evaluates conditional expected utilities. Humans tend to have strong intuitions in favor of CDT, but I’ll … More EDT vs CDT

Policy potpourri

Here are ~32 ways in which I think US policy could be better. Many of these are unrealistic changes. In some cases I think there is a corresponding marginal change that we should advocate for, but in some cases it’s just wishful thinking. You should read this post in the same spirit that you’d read … More Policy potpourri

Epistemic incentives and sluggish updating

Summary: We can get better estimates of epistemic virtue by considering changes in people’s beliefs, rather than only comparing their predictions to reality. But if we use this information, people who want to appear virtuous are motivated to lie about their beliefs, resulting in “sluggish” updating in a predictable direction (or a failure to update … More Epistemic incentives and sluggish updating