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?
I really like One Night Ultimate Werewolf (ONUW), and recommend trying it out. The Daybreak expansion is also good (but I’d skip the later games in the series). App For those who’ve played a lot and wish the night took 20 seconds rather than a few minutes, I’ve made an app that you can download … More One Night Ultimate Werewolf
(Cross-posted from facebook.) If welfare grows with log income, then a flat 50% tax actually has no impact on my incentive to work—I get half as many dollars per hour worked, but I’m twice as poor so I value each dollar twice as much. (That is to say, the income effect exactly offsets the substitution … More Flat taxes are neutral under log utility
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?