For the last few years I’ve been avoiding factory farmed eggs because I think they involve a lot of unnecessary suffering. I’m hesitant to be part of that even if it’s not a big deal on utilitarian grounds. This is a pain since factory-farmed eggs are used all over the place (e.g. in ice cream, … More Demand offsetting
A UBI (e.g. paying every adult American $8k/year) would reduce recipient’s need for money and so may reduce their incentive to work. This is frequently offered as an argument against a UBI (or as an argument for alternative policies like the EITC that directly incentivize work). This argument is sometimes presented as economically hard-headed realism. … More It’s not economically inefficient for a UBI to reduce recipient’s employment
Most people benefit significantly from privately funded public goods (e.g. Wikipedia). If we all contribute to such public goods, then we can all end up better off. But as an individual it’s almost never a good return on investment. I think of supporting such public goods as being a good citizen, but that leaves open … More Distributed public goods provision
Creating really good outcomes for humanity seems hard. We get bored. If we don’t get bored, we still don’t like the idea of joy without variety. And joyful experiences only seems good if they are real and meaningful (in some sense we can’t easily pin down). And so on. On the flip side, creating really … More Hedonic asymmetries
Suppose that a kingdom contains a million peasants and a thousand nobles, and: Each noble makes as much as 10,000 peasants put together, such that collectively the nobles get 90% of the income. Each noble cares about as much about themselves as they do about all peasants put together. Each person’s welfare is logarithmic in … More Moral public goods
Using real money in prediction markets is all-but-illegal, and dealing with payments is a pain. But using fake money in prediction markets seems tricky, because by default players have no skin in the game. Here’s a simple proposal that I think might work reasonably well without being too hard to try: Create a service that … More Prediction markets for internet points?
How should a state tax investment income if it wants to maximize its citizens’ welfare? This sounds like a simple question but I find it surprisingly hard to think about. Here are some of the positions I’ve moved through over the last few years: Taxing investment has distortionary effects, but we should have non-zero investment … More Taxing investment income is complicated
From the perspective of an organism trying to propagate its genes, sex is like a trade: I’ll put half of your DNA in my offspring if you put half of my DNA in yours. I still pass one copy of my genes onto the next generation per unit of investment in children, so it’s a … More Reframing the evolutionary benefit of sex
Imagine a world where some pairs of whom want to talk to each other—each person has a unique n-bit identity (e.g. 64-bit strings), and wants to send a message to someone with a particular identity. The number of people is ballpark exp(n), I’m imagining ~10 billion. We’ll start with a graph G, where people know how to … More Some open problems in P2P routing
Suppose that there were was no number theory, no elliptic curves, no lattice-based crypto. Perhaps because our universe was rigged against cryptographers, or perhaps because our society had never decided to explore abstruse mathematics. How bad would this be? Would electronic commerce be impossible? Would modern society crumble? In this post I’ll explore the possibility that … More How replaceable is public key crypto?