Someone who is interested in learning and doing good.
My main blog: https://matthewbarnett.substack.com/
Does anyone know if there are samples from the model?
I bet Robin Hanson on Twitter my $9k to his $1k that de novo AGI will arrive before ems. He wrote,
OK, so to summarize a proposal: I’d bet my $1K to your $9K (both increased by S&P500 scale factor) that when US labor participation rate < 10%, em-like automation will contribute more to GDP than AGI-like. And we commit our descendants to the bet.
FWIW, this was the full paragraph that I pulled the quote from,
The “smartest people in the world” claim from the Yang Gang is a mild example of the argument from authority. The authority being deferred to is often religious, as in the gospel song and bumper sticker “God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” But it can also be political or academic. Intellectual cliques often revolve around a guru whose pronouncements become secular gospel. Many academic disquisitions begin, “As Derrida has taught us . . .”—or Foucault, or Butler, or Marx, or Freud, or Chomsky. Good scientists disavow this way of talking, but they are sometimes raised up as authorities by others. I often get letters taking me to task for worrying about human-caused climate change because, they note, this brilliant physicist or that Nobel laureate denies it. But Einstein was not the only scientific authority whose opinions outside his area of expertise were less than authoritative. In their article “The Nobel Disease: When Intelligence Fails to Protect against Irrationality,” Scott Lilienfeld and his colleagues list the flaky beliefs of a dozen science laureates, including eugenics, megavitamins, telepathy, homeopathy, astrology, herbalism, synchronicity, race pseudoscience, cold fusion, crank autism treatments, and denying that AIDS is caused by HIV.
I only skimmed Julia Galef’s book, which is why I didn’t compare the two. I suspect her book would be a better fit for newcomers, but I’m not sure.
I think the Bayesian interpretation might have been Pinker’s own take. I did not interject it myself.
Yes, he says a bit more. Let me provide some quotes,
Many Rationalistas believe that Bayes’s rule is among the normative models that are most frequently flouted in everyday reasoning and which, if better appreciated, could add the biggest kick to public rationality. In recent decades Bayesian thinking has skyrocketed in prominence in every scientific field. Though few laypeople can name or explain it, they have felt its influence in the trendy term “priors,” which refers to one of the variables in the theorem.
It would be nice to see people earn brownie points for acknowledging uncertainty in their beliefs, questioning the dogmas of their political sect, and changing their minds when the facts change, rather than for being steadfast warriors for the dogmas of their clique. Conversely, it could be a mortifying faux pas to overinterpret anecdotes, confuse correlation with causation, or commit an informal fallacy like guilt by association or the argument from authority. The “Rationality Community” identifies itself by these norms, but they should be the mores of the whole society rather than the hobby of a club of enthusiasts.
He also cites Raemon’s essay “What exactly is the “Rationality Community?”″ in the notes, as well as this essay on Arbital about Bayes’ rule, Overcoming Bias, Slate Star Codex, Scott Aaronson, Julia Galef’s new book, Bryan Caplan’s description of the rationalist community, and Tom Chiver’s book.
I also like the Solow-Swan model. But if I’m evaluating “how can economic policy help growth?”, I can hardly do that from within an idealized economic model.
I disagree. Idealized models can help by answering what happens when we intervene on one of the variables. For example, there are policies that can increase the national savings rate, and thus increasing capital accumulation and per capita output (like the 401k). The Solow-Swan model doesn’t directly state how to do this, but you can endogenize the savings rate; the most famous attempt is the Ramsey–Cass–Koopmans model, which shows how households make tradeoffs between savings and consumption, and helps us see we might intervene to affect the savings rate.
my (implicit) model wasn’t “capitalist->more growth”, it included considerations like “weaker property rights decreases individual incentive to invest
FWIW, I think “strong property rights” is the defining feature of what most people consider “capitalism” so I don’t see these as separate models.
I invite you to read my newish post on the Solow-Swan model of growth. After reading it, it will still be unclear how much economic policy has contributed to growth, but the ways that economic policy can help will likely become clearer.
Very broadly speaking, the main ways to grow an economy focus on technological development and capital accumulation. I still need to finish writing the post on endogenous growth theory, but the rough story there is that economic policy can help firms develop technological innovations.
As an interesting epistemic spot check, I’ll ask you a question: how much faster do you think the capitalist economy of the United States grew compared to the Marxist-Leninist Soviet Union?
The answer: GDP per capita grew at roughly equal rates until the 1980s, after which the Soviet Union entered a deep depression. Is that surprising? It might be if you think that growth is a direct function of how capitalist a nation is, or how much a nation listens to the advice Western economists. But that’s not the best model.
Growth depends on a variety of factors, in addition to economic policy: how far a nation is from the economic frontier, the presence of war and organized crime, and exogenous factors like climate and natural resources. There’s some really interesting stuff to learn about in growth economics.
My next post will be about endogenous growth theory, which tries to understand the causes of technological progress. It may take a while to come out though, so for now you can take a look at the excellent blog The Roots of Progress.
I note that I am confused. I am confused mostly because the claim “loss aversion exists only for large losses” seems to be completely disharmonious with my anecdotal experience, and I tend to view anecdotal experience as an often semi-reliable guide to the accuracy of social science. If the strong version of this claim is true, how would you explain the following facts?
This video, in which a bunch of people on the street did not want to bet at favorable odds that a coin flip would land tails.
A large fraction of the population holds their money in low-interest savings accounts, rather than putting their money in a brokerage account where they can buy stocks.
People systematically refuse to throw away stuff that they own, even if they haven’t used the items in years. But when asked whether they would pay a dollar to put one more useless item in their home, they will refuse.
People usually view petty theft as horrible when it’s committed against them, even though they usually don’t become extremely happy when you unexpectedly give them $50.
It’s well known that people will panic-sell during a market correction, even though if the market rises by 10% people don’t change their behavior by much, and even if they don’t have much money in the stock market.
Anecdotally, I used to gamble small amounts of money and would feel really bad if I lost it, even if it was just $20. Lots of people don’t like taking friendly epistemic bets for similar reasons.
My guess is that you could come up with ad-hoc explanations for all of these things without reference to loss aversion, but that doesn’t seem very elegant to me. A proclivity for loss aversion present in 50+% of humans appears like the most natural, simple explanation.
[ETA: However, after reading the link from Kaj Sotala I’m starting to feel my mind being changed.]
I don’t quite understand what you mean. National wealth works just like individual wealth. You linked to the Wikipedia page on “Austerity” (presumably because you think such policies do not work) but I don’t understand your point. Do you think either spending cuts or tax increases usually never increase national wealth? I also don’t think those things are equivalent to national income or expenses.
Maybe it is more food and less hard work, in general. Or maybe it is something in the food that screws up many (but not all) people’s metabolism.
I’m with you that it probably has to do with what’s in our food. Unlike some, however, I’m skeptical that we can nail it down to “one thing”, like a simple additive, or ingredient. It seems most likely to me that companies have simply done a very good job optimizing processed food to be addicting, in the last 50 years. That’s their job, anyway.
Scott Alexander reviewed a book from Stephan Guyenet about this hypothesis, and I find it quite compelling.
Now, I am probably not the first person to think about this—if it is about lifestyle, then perhaps we should see clear connection between obesity and profession. To put it bluntly, are people working in offices more fat than people doing hard physical work? I admit I never actually paid attention to this.
That’s a good question. I haven’t looked into this, and may soon. My guess is that you’d probably have to adjust for cognitive confounders, but after doing so I’d predict that people in highly physically demanding professions tend to be thinner and more fit (in the sense of body fat percentage, not necessarily BMI). However, I’d also suspect that the causality may run in the reverse direction; it’s a lot easier to exercise if you’re thin.
To clarify, there are two related but separate questions about obesity that are worth distinguishing,
What explains why people are more obese than 50 years ago? And what can we do about it?
What explains why some people are more obese than others, at a given point of time? And what can we do about it?
In my argument, I was primarily saying that CICO was important for explaining (1). For instance, I do not think that the concept of metabolic privilege can explain much of (1), since 50 years is far too little of time for our metabolisms to evolve in such a rapid and widespread manner. So, from that perspective, I really do think that overconsumption and/or lack of exercise are the important and relevant mechanisms driving our current crisis. And further, I think that our overconsumption is probably related to processed food.
I did not say much about (2), but I can say a little about my thoughts now. I agree that people vary in how “fast” their metabolisms expend calories. The most obvious variation is, as you mentioned, the difference between the youthful metabolism and the metabolism found in older people.
Then you have the opposite type of people, whose metabolism stubbornly refuses to release the fat from fat cells, no matter how much they starve or how much they try to exercise… (In extreme cases, if they try to starve, they will just get weak and maybe fall in coma, but they still won’t lose a single kilogram.)
I don’t think these people are common, at least in a literal sense. Obesity is very uncommon in pre-industrialized cultures, and in hunter-gatherer settings. I think this is very strong evidence that it is feasible for the vast majority of people to be non-obese under the right environmental circumstances (though feasible does not mean easy, or that it can be done voluntarily in our current world). I also don’t find personal anecdotes from people about the intractability of losing weight compelling, given this strong evidence.
Furthermore, in addition to the role of metabolism, I would also point to the role of cognitive factors like delayed gratification in explaining obesity. You can say that this is me just being “smug” or “blaming fat people for their own problems” but this would be an overly moral interpretation of what I view as simply an honest causal explanation. A utilitarian might say that we should only blame people for things that they have voluntary control over. So in light of the fact that cognitive abilities are largely outside of our control, I would never blame an obese person for their own condition.
Instead of being moralistic, I am trying to be honest. And being honest about the cause of a phenomenon allows us to invent better solutions than the ones that exist. Indeed, if weight loss is a simple matter of overconsumption, and we also admit that people often suffer from problems of delayed gratification, then I think this naturally leads us to propose medical interventions like bariatric surgery or weight loss medication—both of which have a much higher chance of working than solutions rooted in a misunderstanding of the real issue.
What specifically is the advantage of the version with calories?
Well, let me consider a recent, highly upvoted post on here: A Contamination Theory of the Obesity Epidemic. In it, the author says that the explanation for the obesity crisis can’t be CICO,
“It’s from overeating!”, they cry. But controlled overfeeding studies (from the 1970′s—pre-explosion) struggle to make people gain weight and they loose it quickly once the overfeeding stops. (Which is evidence against a hysteresis theory.)“It’s lack of exercise”, they yell. But making people exercise doesn’t seem to produce significant weight loss, and obesity is still spreading despite lots of money and effort being put into exercise.
“It’s from overeating!”, they cry. But controlled overfeeding studies (from the 1970′s—pre-explosion) struggle to make people gain weight and they loose it quickly once the overfeeding stops. (Which is evidence against a hysteresis theory.)
“It’s lack of exercise”, they yell. But making people exercise doesn’t seem to produce significant weight loss, and obesity is still spreading despite lots of money and effort being put into exercise.
If CICO is literally true, in the same way that the “atoms in, atoms out” theory is true, then this debunking is very weak. The obesity epidemic must be due to either overeating or lack of exercise, or both.
The real debate is, of course, over which environmental factors caused us to eat more, or exercise less. But if you don’t even recognize that the cause must act through this mechanism, then you’re not going to get very far in your explanation. That’s how you end up proposing that it must be some hidden environmental factor, as this post does, rather than more relevant things related to the modern diet.
My own view is that the most likely cause of our current crisis is that modern folk have access to more and a greater variety of addicting processed food, so we end up consistently overeating. I don’t think this theory is obviously correct, and of course it could be wrong. However, in light of the true mechanism behind obesity, it makes a lot more sense to me than many other theories that people have proposed, especially any that deny we’re overeating from the outset.
There have been a few posts about the obesity crisis here, and I’m honestly a bit confused about some theories that people are passing around. I’m one of those people thinks that the “calories in, calories” (CICO) theory is largely correct, relevant, and helpful for explaining our current crisis. I’m not actually sure to what extent people here disagree with my basic premises, or whether they just think I’m missing a point. So let me be more clear.As I understand, there are roughly three critiques you can have against the CICO theory. You can think it’s,(1) largely incorrect(2) largely irrelevant(3) largely just smugness masquerading as a theoryI think that (1) is simply factually wrong. In order for the calorie intake minus expenditure theory to be factually incorrect, scientists would need to be wrong about not only minor details, but the basic picture concerning how our metabolism works. Therefore, I assume that the real meat of the debate is in (2) and (3).Yet, I don’t see how (2) and (3) are defensible either. As a theory, CICO does what it needs to do: compellingly explains our observations. It provides an answer to the question, “Why are people obese at higher rates than before?”, namely, “They are eating more calories than before, or expending fewer calories, or both.”
I fully admit that CICO doesn’t provide an explanation for why we eat more calories before, but it never needed to on its own. Theories don’t need to explain everything to be useful. And I don’t think many credible people are claiming that “calories in, calories out” was supposed to provide a complete picture of what’s happening (theories rarely explain what drives changes to inputs in the theory). Instead, it merely clarifies the mechanism of why we’re in the current situation, and that’s always important.It’s also not about moral smugness, any more than any other epistemic theory. The theory that quitting smoking improves one’s health does not imply that people who don’t quit are unvirtuous, or that the speaker is automatically assuming that you simply lack willpower. Why? Because is and ought are two separate things. CICO is about how obesity comes about. It’s not about who to blame. It’s not about shaming people for not having willpower. It’s not about saying that you have sinned. It’s not about saying that we ought to individually voluntarily reduce our consumption. For crying out loud, it’s an epistemic theory not a moral one!To state the obvious, without clarifying the basic mechanism of how a phenomenon works in the world, you’ll just remain needlessly confused.Imagine if people all around the world people were getting richer (as measured in net worth), and we didn’t know why. To be more specific, suppose we didn’t understand the “income minus expenses” theory of wealth, so instead we went around saying things like, “it could be the guns”, “it could be factories”, “it could be the that we have more computers.” Now, of course, all of these explanations could play a role in why we’re getting richer over time, but none of them make any sense without connecting them to the “income minus expenses theory.”To state “wealth is income minus expenses” does not in any way mean that you are denying how guns, factories, and computers might play a role in wealth accumulation. It simply focuses the discussion on ways that those things could act through the basic mechanism of how wealth operates.If your audience already understands that this is how wealth works, then sure, you don’t need to mention it. But in the case of the obesity debate, there are a ton of people who don’t actually believe in CICO; in other words, there are a considerable number of people who firmly believe critique (1). Therefore, refusing to clarify how your proposed explanation connects to calories, in my opinion, generates a lot of unnecessary confusion.As usual, the territory is never mysterious. There are only brains who are confused. If you are perpetually confused by a phenomenon, that is a fact about you, and not the phenomenon. There does not in fact need to be a complicated, clever mechanism that explains obesity that all researchers have thus far missed. It could simply be that the current consensus is correct, and we’re eating too many calories. The right question to ask is what we can do to address that.
While “eat less exercise more” may be fine advice at a personal level, it isn’t a sufficient answer to the society-wide epidemic of obesity that we currently face.
I disagree, although I found the evidence in the linked posts to be rather weak. When I think of “calories in, calories out” I don’t immediately think, “Therefore we should push for voluntary dieting changes.” There are likely involuntary and external factors related to our consumption, which act through the CICO mechanism, driving the obesity crisis.
It’s a bit like if we were debating the “income minus spending theory of wealth.” One hand, you’re right that “just spend less” is unhelpful advice for people. However, the theory is not actually an incorrect one. If people are actually getting poorer, then it’s either because their incomes went down, or their spending went up, or both. Denying the basic mechanism won’t lead to a solution. It will just make you confused forever.
I notice I Am Confused about this. So are you.
Never be too sure.
I don’t think I can respond to everything in your comment, but let me try to address the main point. As I understand, you say that something is left unexplained by the “Calories in, Calories out” paradigm. That something is explained by your question,
Why did the “set point” go up, permanently?
I think the most likely explanation is simply that modern food is tastier than the more bland food eaten in the past. “Taste” here should be interpreted as capturing all dimensions of the satisfaction of eating, including texture, mouthfeel, and aftertaste. There is also a simple explanation for why typical food has gotten tastier over time; namely, food science has gotten better, corporations have become more efficient at producing and marketing processed foods, and consumer incomes have gotten higher—thus enabling more access and greater choice.
This explanation also perfectly predicts your long paragraph addressing possible causes. Is it fat? Carbs? High-glycemic index foods? Not enough grains? I ask: why couldn’t it be all those things at once?
If the reason why we eat more is because food has gotten tastier, then we should also expect the “cause” to be multifaceted. After all, most people don’t think that there’s only “one thing” that makes food taste good. Taste is more complicated than that, and varies between people.
Reducing the question of “why are we getting obese?” to “why do foods taste good?” doesn’t solve the problem, of course—we still don’t have a full theory of why food tastes good. But, in my opinion, if it’s correct, then it totally deconfuses the proximate mechanism here.
In that sense, I think my CO2 analogy holds quite well. There are many reasons why people omit CO2: electricity, temperature control, transportation etc. And as we’ve gotten richer, those justfications have become more salient, as people can afford to purchase service that provide those benefits, omitting CO2 as a byproduct. Simply knowing this doesn’t mean you’ve solved climate change, of course, but it gets you a lot further than “Why are people burning more CO2 than before? I don’t know; could be anything.”
My primary claim was that we already understand the main proximate cause of the obesity pandemic. It has something to do with people maintaining calorie a calorie surplus—the difference between our calorie intake and our energy expenditure.
If I understand your reply correctly, you are essentially saying, “vegetable oils likely cause our bodies to retain extra calories than they otherwise would.” A reasonable conjecture, but let me offer another.
Assume that our bodies do not retain more or fewer calories depending on what we eat. Instead, our calorie surplus is measured reasonably well by the number on the nutrition label. Then, naturally, the problem is simply that we’re eating too much.
Of course, this theory leaves a lot to be explained, such as why we’re eating so much in the first place. However, we also have a simple answer for that: modern processed food generally tastes good, gets people hooked, and causes us to have more frequent and more intense food cravings. As far as Occam is concerned, I don’t see why we need much more than this theory.