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Yvain comments on Money: The Unit of Caring - Less Wrong

95 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 31 March 2009 12:35PM

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Comment author: Yvain 31 March 2009 02:28:28PM *  15 points [-]

I wonder how far your observation is generalizable across all people. I would have predicted the opposite effect.

I tend to be much more willing to donate money to charities than to donate time. And I find this to be a general principle (ie I tend to pay my taxes without grumbling too much, but when some stupid government policy wastes my time, that's when I get angry and write to my congressperson).

Possible explanations: I grew up in a wealthy family, and/or I don't really actually spend money on anything beyond necessities because the library gives books out for free.

Informal poll: If asked to donate either one hour of free time, or your hourly wage, to a worthy charity that would receive equal benefit from either, which would you rather do? Disregard taxes being deducted from your wage and that sort of thing.

Comment author: CronoDAS 31 March 2009 08:16:14PM 5 points [-]

As I am job-free and supported by my parents, my hourly wage is approximately zero.

Comment author: MichaelHoward 31 March 2009 09:04:24PM 7 points [-]

Surely your hourly wage is infinity? :)

Comment author: CronoDAS 31 March 2009 09:11:31PM *  5 points [-]

Heh, yes, that too. My free time is too valuable to me to sell to employers for anything they'd be willing to pay. ;)

On the other hand, I am willing to spend time bargain-hunting on the Internet in order to make the most of my finite savings. Am I being inconsistent here? If I simply said that I place an extremely large positive value on freedom from employment, would that make my behavior consistent?

Comment author: Larks 05 August 2009 09:02:47PM 3 points [-]

I tell my employed friends that clearly my time is simply worth a lot more than theirs. :)

If I simply said that I place an extremely large positive value on freedom from employment, would that make my behavior consistent?

If this were true, it would, but just saying it doesn't change anything, and it sounds a bit like an ad hoc rationalisation; though having read your comments elsewhere it may well not be.

Comment author: AlexanderRM 15 November 2014 02:43:12AM 2 points [-]

That phrasing certainly sounds like ad hoc rationalization. The rational (rationalist?*) way to go about that would be to... recognize that you attach value to some things associated with freedom from employment, try to figure out what exactly that is and quantify it while ignoring what your current actions are, and then determine whether your current actions are consistent with that, and change them if not. If you determine your values based on what your current actions are, there's no point in being rational.

I have a vague feeling like "rational" should mean "the way a hypothetical rational actor, such as an AI built for rationality, would act", and "rationalist" would mean "the way a human who recognizes that their brain is not built for rationality and actively tries to overcome thing would act". An AI built to be rational would never need to do this because their behavior would *already follow logically from their values. I don't remember why I put in this note, but it's an interesting thing about this site generally.

Comment author: Larks 15 November 2014 06:20:10PM 0 points [-]

Good point. CronoDAS's other comments suggest a desire to be free from commitments in general.

Also, welcome to LessWrong!

Comment author: gjm 31 March 2009 09:08:31PM 4 points [-]

I would prefer to donate the money.

Comment author: AlexanderRM 15 November 2014 02:36:20AM *  0 points [-]

Interesting... I'd go with the money immediately (picturing minimum wage, $8 an hour, here). Yet I'm quite sure that I tend to conserve money far, far more effectively than time at that ratio; with the exception of a handful of purchases like my computer (and even that was in the hundreds of dollars, easily worth it given how much time I spend on the internet), I've probably spent maybe a few of hundred dollars on luxuries since I started having significant discretionary spending money, which would have been in middle school when I started my paper route, almost 10 years ago. On the other hand, I regularly waste hours and hours on random internet things that I often don't even remember, day after day.

I think the difference is probably between work and enjoyable time, which makes things really hard to calculate. I think that I attach varying degrees of negative value to doing work (depending on factors specific to the work) in addition to the time spent.

Of course, that would be assuming I were a rational actor. I suspect I actually have biases in both directions depending on the situation, and that probably many people are like that. There's no reason biases have to be consistent, in fact, that's pretty much the whole point of them.

EDIT: Correction, actually: If the hour were spent on the sort of jobs I've done to earn money previously (cashiering in retail or delivering papers, specifically in settings and routines I'm familiar with), then I'd probably go with doing the work. I seem to have assumed that doing an hour working charity involved awkwardly learning new things or figuring things out or working with other people (an example of attaching negative value to specific aspects of doing work). Maybe my emotional estimate was actually more rational than I'd realized; that'd be rather unusual.