Proponents of ideas like radical markets, universal basic income, open borders, income-sharing agreements, or smart contracts (I’d here include, for instance, Vitalik Buterin) are also optimization partisans.
In the case of UBI, what is optimization from the viewpoint of the decision makers is freedom from the viewpoint of those concerned by the decision.
After all : money is needed to fulfill the basic needs of life in society. Without UBI, little people are forced to look for money on the job market, where they are perpetually reminded that they must prove their usefulness by joining a group of sufficient efficiency on the global market (a company).On the other hand, UBI frees these people to pursue their own, possibly wildly creative goals, however inefficient these are deemed by others.
So I’m thinking : maybe freedom is a limited (and highly valued) goods. If some have leeway to apply arbitrary decisions, then necessarily others don’t. I need airplanes to be very reliable so that I can travel at my fancy. Freedom is based on top of reliability (which is equivalent to optimization in this context). Even at the individual level : I’m free to do what I want today because my body is highly optimized to obey my mental commands.
This idea seems to pervade your article (e.g. when you mention corruption as a typical sign of freedom), but it wasn’t really explicited anywhere.
5) status quo bias.
Most people will change they minds the moment the technology is available and cheap. Or rather, they will keep disliking the idea of ‘immortality’ while profusely consuming anti-aging products without ever noticing the contradiction, because in their minds these will belong in two different realms : grand theories VS everyday life. Those will conjure different images (ubermensch consumed by hubris VS sympathetic grandpa taking his pills to be able to keep playing with his grandkids). Eventually, they’ll have to notice that life expectancy has risen well above what was traditionnally accepted, but by then that will be the new status quo.
6) concern about inequalities. The layman has always had the consolation that however rich and powerful someone is, and however evil they are, at least they die like everyone else eventually. But what will happen when some people can escape death indefinitely ? It means that someone who has accumulated power all his life… can keep accumulating power. Patrimony will no more be splitted among heirs. IMO, people would be right to be suspicious that such a game-changing advantage would end up in the hands of a small super-rich class.
7) popular culture has always envisioned the quest for immortality as a faustian bargain. This conditions people against seeing life lengthening as harmless.
What, it doesn’t count as a lie if it’s in writing? That’s a hell of a system of contract law they’ve got in this allegorical kingdom.
I have a different answer to this than what has been given so far :
It’s a question of implicit conventions. The king’s challenge follows and mimics the jester’s challenge. In the jester’s challenge, the jester makes a statement about the truth value of the inscriptions on the boxes. By doing this, he sets the precedent that the inscriptions on the boxes are part of the game and do not engage the honesty of the game maker. The inscriptions can be true of false, and it’s part of the challenge to guess what is each one. Only the jester’s own words engage his honesty. If he lied, the challenge would be rigged.
The king mimics the jester’s setup, but makes no statement about the truth value of the inscriptions on the boxes. That difference should have sounded suspicious to the jester. He should have asked the king if the statements were logical. The king could have lied, but at that point if the king was ready to lie then he’d probably kill the jester even if he found the key.
So it would be [I SEE BLUE AND I TRY TO SHOOT].
… except that it wouldn’t mind if shooting itself damaged its own program so that it wouldn’t even try to shoot if it saw blue anymore.
Ok, I am inclined to agree that its behaviour can’t be described in terms of goals.
But, that’s the thing : P(observation|researcher 1) = P(observation|researcher 2)
The individual patient results would not change whether it is researcher 1 or 2 leading the experiment. And given the 100 results that they had, both researchers would (and did) proceed exactly the same.
I feel like the more paternal a format gets, the more it allows for various and complex articulations between individual elements. In order of growing expressivity :
bullet list/hyperlink : elements all share the same relation
blueprint/diagram/chart : allows to display multiple types of relations between elements, but each must be separately defined in the key
story/video : allows the full use of language’s power to articulate the elements
I’d choose my format based on that.
Please note: I’m writing this not to denounce, but to try to understand a mode of thinking that I am unfamiliar with.
For once I find myself at odds with the common sentiment here. I’m one of those people who are convinced neither by Scott Alexander nor the OP.
Among other points, I fear, if we do as they said, that we’ll start self-censoring our speech towards billionaires donation; over time and through halo effect, this could lead to social censoring of any criticsm of billionaires. I can already see it in the way SA uses the loaded word “attacks on billionaire philanthropy” rather than “criticism of billionaire philanthropy”.
If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the difference between us is that most LW’s posters probably are closer to billionaires, geographically, socially, and in their values, than I. Maybe they are not worried because they can relate to billionaires in ways that I can’t.
There is no denying that through tax rebates the donators are leveraging everyone’s tax money. This is “a plutocratic element in a democratic setting.” as Rob Reich says. The fact that it worries no one here makes me wonder: would you have another government rather than democracy?
Again I’m not trying to corner you into breaking a taboo. I’m legitimately curious.
It seems equally valid to say that donors are only leveraging their own tax money, because donations can only reduce your tax bill to zero (or not even that because only donations up to half of your income is tax deductable), and not to a negative number.
Let’s say that a bunch of people owe me money. If I give a discount to one of them, clearly, that discount is a present. It’s money I give to that person.
The way I see it, when someone gives 100$ to a charity with 40% tax deduction, what actually happens is that the person gives 60$ to the charity, and the state matches that with 40$ of its own taxpayer’s money. The fact that the state’s gift is limited to the amount of the person’s taxes is irrelevant to the nature of the transaction.
As Rob Reich concludes :
So the citizens of the United States are collectively subsidizing, through foregone tax collection, the giving preferences of the wealthy to a much greater degree than the giving preferences of the middle class or poor. And, of course, the giving preferences of the wealthy are not a mirror of the giving preferences of all people.
Worried about what? That there’s some kind of slippery slope where billionaire philanthropy starts a process that eventually causes us have a non-democratic form of government, or that “a plutocratic element in a democratic setting” is bad even if there is no risk of that?
Certainly, I see that plutocratic element as an erosion of democracy. But it’s not the only one. The whole electoral system is already bad enough; the leaders, elected and unlected, are unaccountable, and generally unwilling to even discuss a lot of measures that the majority of the voters ask for. Using our taxes to finance some rich guy’s pet charity is just another nail in the coffin.
the “plutocratic element” is trying and succeeding in solving a bunch of problems that our democracy is failing to solve.
Democracy is certainly not the most expedient. But it has arisen because History has taught us to be wary of forms of power that are too expedient. The point of democracy is precisely to have safeguards against unilateral use of power.
Reich doesn’t want to outlaw billionaire philanthropy. All he says is that it shouldn’t be subsidized by the taxpayer’s money, and that it should be closely scrutinized before rolling out the red carpet. I only see good practice here.
Edit : last minute idea. Billionaire philanthropists probably do a whole lot of good. But giving them credit for all of it would be comparing against a hypothetical world where billionaire philanthropy would be replaced by nothing. But we don’t know. We might have a world where good charity is done another way, maybe even better. In any case, even if you think Reich’s charitable credit would do worse, only the difference should be credited to our current system.
Ok, I’m getting a feel of how you come to your conclusions.
My perspective here comes from public choice theory.
Any good reads to learn the basics?
It seems to me that if one could leverage more than one’s own share of taxes, then that would constitute a unilateral use of power, because the state is using force to collect taxes, and directing other people’s tax money essentially means you’re forcing them to spend their money in a way that you want. But if you’re only leveraging your own share of taxes, then it just means that the state is not forcing you to spend money the way that it wants.
That’s just another way to describe the same facts. I call it everyone’s tax money because in my mind, taxes are pooled. When the state refunds someone, it scoops money from that pool without regard from whom it comes from. You see it as a bank vault with separate boxes for each taxpayer. In your view, it’s true that the billionaire only leverages their own tax money; but by doing so they escape taxes, and the critical point is that they do so more that the layman. Different perspective, same result.
But maybe by “use of power” you mean something besides “use of force”? If so, what? (The only other thing I can think of is “use of money or other resources” but that seems to cover way too much.)
I did mean the latter, as RR did when he said : Philanthropy can be an exercise of power, and even if it’s unsubsidized philanthropic power, we still are required to scrutinize its deployment.
Also he said “independent of a tax break [...] potentially to be rejected if it’s not.” Do you know what he meant by “rejected” here? Just “criticized”, or something stronger like “banned”?
I think the latter. Considering his example just above, it interpret it to the effect that the rule forbidding citizens to send money to the police or the army should be extended to philanthropy in some cases, especially when those cases should be or used to be the duty of the state (like the example he gives about schools).
I can only reply for myself: around 60%.
Now you could contact RR and ask him the same question.
In any case, how do you interpret the answer?
Also I agree with you that the “preserve every pulse” kind of thinking could lead to an impractical situation , but I also think that the correct approach for this issue is the “in medio stat virtus” approach being something like “If you create damages to society which are greater than your contribution to it for a continued period of e.g. 5 years” your life would not be worth preserving
Do you realize that under such guidelines, one could easily make the case for most of the unemployed people to be eradicated? I’m pretty sure that’s not your goal here.
So are you seriously claiming that you can’t see the correlation between number of humans alive on the Earth and average quality of life and progress achieved by our specie?
I can see the correlation, but I think you have the causation backwards. The case for progress and quality of life leading to increases in human population seems much more straightforward to me. In my simplified model, progress is increased production. Quality of life is production per capita. But when quality of life raises, so does natality and death drops, until human population has absorbed most of the additional production and people are just slightly better off than before.
All the previous points are interesting, but I think they’re besides the point that EY (and probably MM) is trying to make.
It is not about conflicting terminal values. It is about never losing sight of terminal value(s) behind the current instrumental value(s) one is pursuing.
You don’t parry for the sake of parrying, you have (an) ulterior motive(s). Same for opening car doors or rooting out biases.
Why celebrate? Deaths from the COVID have plummetted. The epidemic crisis is over. A vaccine is unnecessary.
Maybe. But to assume any of that, you would need additional knoweledge. In the real world, in an actual case, you might have checked that there are 19 other researchers who used the same approach and that they all hid their findings. Whatever that additional knoweledge is that’s allowing you to infer 19 hidden motivated researchers where only 1 is given, that is what gives you the ≈1% result.
Thanks for voicing some of the things I thought better than I ever could.
I’ve noticed a trend on LW of cheap jabs at “anti-vaxxers”. To me this seems like a partisan label which just makes it harder to voice legitimate concerns about vaccines. Like any medical treatment, we should ask:
how bad is the disease it’s meant to ward off?
how much is it gonna cost? (and who’s gonna pay)
how efficient is it?
do we know the side effects?
That said, AstraZeneca abandoning a vaccine for one patient with an adverse reaction seems absurd. I notice I am confused, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t the whole story.
Prediction: even if vitamin D (or HCQ) is proven to greatly reduce mortality, I don’t think there will be any consensus outside scientific circles. The matter has been far too politicised for any side to back out.
Good point. The discussion too often revolves around the death/recovery opposition and forgets permanent damage.
Still, I’m not convinced a vaccine is necessary. HCQ seems to be an efficient treatment when administered early, before the virus has done much damage, and for that reason the chance of permanent damage is probably lower than with patients who need to be hospitalized.
I don’t think that’s the case and I do happen to be a person who raised legitimate concerns about vaccines in the past.
So you don’t mind being called an anti-vaxxer? Maybe in the US it’s not a big deal, but in France where I am, you might as well be called a flat-earther.
We never know all the side-effects. We make decisions in uncertainty and have to think about the expected value of our decisions given the uncertainty that we have.
Of course. That shouldn’t keep us from doing our best to find out the side effects in the time we have, and to keep searching afterward. And to use that knowlegde when wheighing the benefit/risk ratio of the treatment.
I find the concept of Petrov day valuable, and the principle of the experiment relevant, but doesn’t the difference of stakes undermine the experiment? The consequence of entering the codes here was meaningful and noticeable, but it was nothing irreversible, lasting, or consequential.
When I walk in the streets everyday, dozens of car drivers who have a clear shot at running me over abstain from hurting, maiming or even killing me, and not a single one does it. That’s what I call consequential. I’ll celebrate that.
Mild spoilers for The Swapper:
I also highly enjoyed The Swapper, but I’d make a warning: dark mood, do not play when feeling low.
That’s the reason I don’t like it.
The game changes the nature of its puzzles abruptly. The players come for a kind of puzzle, the one they see on the trailers. They (and I) are not prepared or interested in the second kind. That’s bad game design.