Humans publish trillions of words each year, yet any given human is going to read only a few of them. How should they choose which ones? This has long been a tricky and interesting question. But it’s much more fun now that society is basically forced to write an algorithm to answer it. I like this topic because it is a relatable allegory for value alignment. Conveniently, it’s also an issue du jour on … More Optimizing the news feed
Many apparent cognitive biases can be explained by a strong desire to look good and a limited ability to lie; in general, our conscious beliefs don’t seem to be exclusively or even mostly optimized to track reality. If we take this view seriously, I think it has significant implications for how we ought to reason and behave. (See … More If we can’t lie to others, we will lie to ourselves
As far as I can tell: The largest component of a Rolex’s price is its elaborate time-keeping mechanism, which may cost around $1000. This mechanism has no effect on the aesthetics of the watch (since you can’t see it). This mechanism is not a useful way to tell time. A quartz watch will keep time more accurately with less trouble. … More Less costly signaling
For most people I don’t think it’s important to have a really precise definition of integrity. But if you really want to go all-in on consequentialism then I think it’s useful. Otherwise you risk being stuck with a flavor of consequentialism that is either short-sighted or terminally timid. I. I aspire to make decisions in a pretty simple way. … More Integrity for consequentialists
(Warnings: this is a serious post about a serious topic on which I am underinformed. It was written largely in response to a sea of scared and angry rhetoric—not the best conditions for rational discourse. It is in the same spirit as my previous posts, rather than an attempt to be maximally useful. Also I just saw … More On Trump
Summary: I argue that we’d be better off if we had more and more efficient price discrimination, and suggest a simple scheme the IRS could use to enable it. This probably isn’t a good idea. Also, I just learned that Buck proposed exactly the same thing 2 months ago, I guess something is in the air but I’m not … More The best kind of discrimination
Political spending is a classical example of a zero-sum conflict. If Dustin gives $1M to Clinton and Peter gives $1M to Trump, they might both be happier if all the money went to charity. This suggests the following scheme: rather than having people contribute directly to Hillary or Trump, they give the money to me and choose a charity. If I receive $1 for Hillary … More Repledge++
(Reposted from Facebook, I would prefer put it here than have it lost to the sands of time.) The state of Washington will soon vote on on a large revenue-neutral carbon tax, and will probably reject it. As relayed by Vox, I found the story one of the most compelling political tragedies of the season, … More Initiative 732
Between the hours of 6am and 10am, the Bay Bridge is miserable. Which is a particular shame, because that’s when everyone wants to use it. Right now congestion on the bridge adds 22 minutes to my trip to SF. (Using BART would add a comparable amount.) Google’s “typical” traffic estimate is between an 8 and 53 minute rush hour delay. This is a … More Could raising tolls radically improve commuting?
Distributing information is a tricky problem for capitalism. On the one hand, information wants to be free. For every person who values Stephen’s Sausage Roll at $20 but isn’t willing to pay $30, we are leaving $20 of value on the table. For every person who values a course of Solvadi at $40,000 but isn’t willing to pay $84,000 we are … More Could we make information free?