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Actually existing prediction markets?

4 Douglas_Knight 02 September 2015 10:24PM

What public prediction markets exist in the world today? Have you used one recently?

What attributes do they have that should make us trust them or not, such as liquidity and transaction costs? Do they distort the tails? Which are usable by Americans?

This post is just a request for information. I don’t have much to say.

Intrade used to be the dominant market, but it is gone, opening up this question. The most popular question on prediction markets has been the US Presidential election. If a prediction market wants to get off the ground, it should start with this question. Since the campaign is gearing up, markets that hope to fill the vacuum should exist right now, hence this post.

Many sports bookies give odds on the election. Bookmakers are not technically prediction markets, but they are awfully close and I think the difference is not so important, though maybe they are less likely to provide historical data. They may well be the most liquid and accurate sources of odds. But the fact that they concentrate on sports is important. It means that they are less likely to expand into other forms of prediction and less likely to be available to Americans. I suspect that there are too many covering the election for an exhaustive list to be interesting, but feel free point to point out interesting ones, such as the most liquid, most accessible to Americans, or with the most extensive coverage of non-sports events.

Betting is illegal in America. This is rarely enforced directly against individuals, but often creates difficulty depositing money or using the sites. I don’t think that they usually run into problems if they avoid sports and finance. In particular, Intrade was spun off of a sports bookie specifically to reach Americans.

Here are a few comments on Wikipedia’s list. It seems to be using a strict market criterion, so it includes two sports sites just because they are structured as markets. Worse, it might exclude bookies that I would like to know about. Not counting cryptocurrency markets (which I would like to hear about), it appears that there are no serious money prediction markets. The closest is New Zealand-based iPredict, which is limited to a total deposit of US$6000, and it takes a 18 months to build up to that. The venerable Iowa Electronic Markets (restricted to federal elections) and the young NZ PredictIt have even smaller limits, in return for explicit legality in America. There are three play money markets: Microsoft, Hypermind, and Scicast. The last two came out of the IARPA contest. Scicast is notable for its different topic: science and technology. It closed for the summer and might resume in the fall, pending funding. Not on the list, I should mention PredictionBook, which is close to being a play-money prediction market, but tuned in different directions, both in terms of the feedback it provides to participants and the way it encourages a proliferation of questions.

Stupid Questions September 2015

4 polymathwannabe 02 September 2015 06:26PM

This thread is for asking any questions that might seem obvious, tangential, silly or what-have-you. Don't be shy, everyone has holes in their knowledge, though the fewer and the smaller we can make them, the better.

Please be respectful of other people's admitting ignorance and don't mock them for it, as they're doing a noble thing.

To any future monthly posters of SQ threads, please remember to add the "stupid_questions" tag.

Bragging thread September 2015

3 polymathwannabe 02 September 2015 06:24PM

Your job, should you choose to accept it, is to comment on this thread explaining the most awesome thing you've done this month. You may be as blatantly proud of yourself as you feel. You may unabashedly consider yourself the coolest freaking person ever because of that awesome thing you're dying to tell everyone about. This is the place to do just that.

Remember, however, that this isn't any kind of progress thread. Nor is it any kind of proposal thread. This thread is solely for people to talk about the awesome things they have done. Not "will do". Not "are working on"Have already done. This is to cultivate an environment of object level productivity rather than meta-productivity methods.

So, what's the coolest thing you've done this month?

(Previous bragging thread)

Should there be more people on the leaderboard?

2 casebash 02 September 2015 11:52AM

I'm wondering what the optimal number of people on the leaderboard would be. I suspect that people who appear on the leaderboard post more often because they want to remain on it. The other advantage, is that if the leaderboard seems in reach, more people will compete to get on it.On the other hand, if too many people were added to the leaderboard, then "being on the leaderboard" would be worthless and people would only care if they had a high position.

There are currently 15 people on the leaderboard. I suspect that if there were 20 people on the leaderboard, that would increase the motivation effect, without significantly devaluing being on the leaderboard itself.

What do people think?

Rough utility estimates and clarifying questions

1 Romashka 02 September 2015 12:55PM

Related to: diminishing returns, utility.

I, for example, really don't care that much about trillions of dollars being won in a lottery or offered by an alien AI iff I make 'the right choice'. I mostly deal with things on pretty linear scales, barring sudden gifts from my relatives and Important Life Decisions. So the below was written with trivialities in mind. Why? Because I think we should train our utility-assigning skilz just like we train our prior-probability-estimating ones.

However, I am far from certain we should do it exactly this way. Maybe this would lead to a shiny new bias. At least I vaguely think I already have it, and formalizing it shouldn't make me worse off. I have tried to apply to myself the category of 'risk-averse', but in the end, it didn't change my prevailing heuristic: 'Everything's reasonable, if you have a sufficient reason.' Like, a pregnant woman should not run if she cares about carrying her child, but even then she should run if the house is on fire. Maybe my estimates of 'sufficient' are different than other people's, but they have served me so far; and setting the particular goal of ridding self of particular biases seems less instrumentally rational than just checking how accurate my individual predictions/impressions/any kind of actionable thoughts are.

So I drew up this list of utility components and will try it out at my leisure, tweaking it ad hoc and paying with time and money and health for my mistakes.

Utility of a given item/action for a given owner/actor = produced value + reduced cost + saved future opportunities + fun.

PV points: -2 if A/I 'takes from tomorrow'*, -1 if'harmful' only within the day, 0 if gives zero on net, 1 ifuseful within the day, 2 if 'gives to tomorrow'

*'tomorrow' is foreseeable future:)

RC points: -3 if takes from overall amount of money I have, less the *really* last-resort stash, -2 if takes from more than one-day-budget, -1 if takes from one-day-budget, 0 if zero on net, 1 if saves within a day (like 'saved on a ticket, might buy candy'), 2 saves for 'tomorrow' on net

SFO points: -2 if 'really sucks', -1 if no, 0 if dunno, 1 if yes

F points: -1 if no, 0 if okay, 1 if yes, 2 if hell yes.

U(bout of flue) =-2-3+0-1=-6. Even if I have flue, I might do research or call a friend or do something useful if it'snot very bad, then it will be only -5. On the other hand, I might get pneumonia, which really sucks, and then it willbe -7. Knowing this, I can, when I feel myself going under, 1) make sure I don't get pneumonia, and 2) go through low-effort stuff I keep labelling 'slow-day-stuff'.

U(room of a house) = use + status -maintenance = U(weighted activities of, well, life) + U(weighted signalling activities, like polishing family china) - U(weighted repair activities).

U(route) = f(weather, price, time, destination, health, 'carrying' potential, changeability on short notice, explainability to somebody else) = U(clothes) + U(activities during commute) + U(shopping/exchanging things/..) + U(emergencies)+ U(rescue missions).

What do you think? 

Rationality Quotes Thread September 2015

1 elharo 02 September 2015 09:25AM

Another month, another rationality quotes thread. The rules are:

  • Please post all quotes separately, so that they can be upvoted or downvoted separately. (If they are strongly related, reply to your own comments. If strongly ordered, then go ahead and post them together.)
  • Do not quote yourself.
  • Do not quote from Less Wrong itself, HPMoR, Eliezer Yudkowsky, or Robin Hanson. If you'd like to revive an old quote from one of those sources, please do so here.
  • No more than 5 quotes per person per monthly thread, please.
  • Provide sufficient information (URL, title, date, page number, etc.) to enable a reader to find the place where you read the quote, or its original source if available. Do not quote with only a name.

Yudkowsky, Thiel, de Grey, Vassar panel on changing the world

11 NancyLebovitz 01 September 2015 03:57PM

30 minute panel

The first question was why isn't everyone trying to change the world, with the underlying assumption that everyone should be. However, it isn't obviously the case that the world would be better if everyone were trying to change it. For one thing, trying to change the world mostly means trying to change other people. If everyone were trying to do it, this would be a huge drain on everyone's attention. In addition, some people are sufficiently mean and/or stupid that their efforts to change the world make things worse.

At the same time, some efforts to change the world are good, or at least plausible. Is there any way to improve the filter so that we get more ambition from benign people without just saying everyone should try to change the world, even if they're Osama bin Laden?

The discussion of why there's too much duplicated effort in science didn't bring up the problem of funding, which is probably another version of the problem of people not doing enough independent thinking.

There was some discussion of people getting too hooked on competition, which is a way of getting a lot of people pointed at the same goal. 

Link thanks to Clarity

September 2015 Media Thread

3 ArisKatsaris 01 September 2015 10:42PM

This is the monthly thread for posting media of various types that you've found that you enjoy. Post what you're reading, listening to, watching, and your opinion of it. Post recommendations to blogs. Post whatever media you feel like discussing! To see previous recommendations, check out the older threads.


  • Please avoid downvoting recommendations just because you don't personally like the recommended material; remember that liking is a two-place word. If you can point out a specific flaw in a person's recommendation, consider posting a comment to that effect.
  • If you want to post something that (you know) has been recommended before, but have another recommendation to add, please link to the original, so that the reader has both recommendations.
  • Please post only under one of the already created subthreads, and never directly under the parent media thread.
  • Use the "Other Media" thread if you believe the piece of media you want to discuss doesn't fit under any of the established categories.
  • Use the "Meta" thread if you want to discuss about the monthly media thread itself (e.g. to propose adding/removing/splitting/merging subthreads, or to discuss the type of content properly belonging to each subthread) or for any other question or issue you may have about the thread or the rules.

Typical Sneer Fallacy

8 calef 01 September 2015 03:13AM

I like going to see movies with my friends.  This doesn't require much elaboration.  What might is that I continue to go see movies with my friends despite the radically different ways in which my friends happen to enjoy watching movies.  I'll separate these movie-watching philosophies into a few broad and not necessarily all-encompassing categories (you probably fall into more than one of them, as you'll see!):

(a): Movie watching for what was done right.  The mantra here is "There are no bad movies." or "That was so bad it was good."  Every movie has something redeeming about it, or it's at least interesting to try and figure out what that interesting and/or good thing might be.  This is the way that I watch movies, most of the time (say 70%).


(b): Movie watching for entertainment.  Mantra: "That was fun!".  Critical analysis of the movie does not provide any enjoyment.  The movie either succeeds in 'entertaining' or it fails.  This is the way that I watch movies probably 15% of the time.


(c): Movie watching for what was done wrong.  Mantra: "That movie was terrible."  The only enjoyment that is derived from the movie-watching comes from tearing the film apart at its roots--common conversation pieces include discussion of plot inconsistencies, identification of poor directing/cinematography/etc., and even alternative options for what could have 'fixed' the film to the extent that the film could even said to be 'fixed'.  I do this about ~12% of the time.


(d): Sneer. Mantra: "Have you played the drinking game?".  Vocal, public, moderately-drunken dog-piling of a film's flaws are the only way a movie can be enjoyed.  There's not really any thought put into the critical analysis.  The movie-watching is more an excuse to be rambunctious with a group of friends than it is to actually watch a movie.  I do this, conservatively, 3% of the time.

What's worth stressing here is that these are avenues of enjoyment.  Even when a (c) person watches a 'bad' movie, they enjoy it to the extent that they can talk at length about what was wrong with the movie. With the exception of the Sneer category, none of these sorts of critical analysis are done out of any sort of vindictiveness, particularly and especially (c).

So, like I said, I'm mostly an (a) person.  I have friends that are (a) people, (b) people, (c) people, and even (d) people (where being a (_) person means watching movies with that philosophy more than 70% of the time).


This can generate a certain amount of friction.  Especially when you really enjoy a movie, and your friend starts shitting all over it.


Or at least, that's what it feels like from the inside!  Because you might have really enjoyed a movie because you thought it was particularly well-shot, or it evoked a certain tone really well, but here comes your friend who thought the dialogue was dumb, boring, and poorly written.  Fundamentally, you and your friend are watching the movie for different reasons.  So when you go to a movie with 6 people who are exclusively (c), category (c) can start looking a whole lot like category (d) when you're an (a) or (b) person.

And that's no fun, because (d) people aren't really charitable at all.  It can be easy to translate in one's mind the criticism "That movie was dumb" into "You are dumb for thinking that movie wasn't dumb".  Sometimes the translation is even true!  Sneer Culture is a thing that exists, and while its connection to my 'Sneer' category above is tenuous, my word choice is intentional.  There isn't anything wrong with enjoying movies via (d), but because humans are, well, human, a sneer culture can bloom around this sort of philosophy.

Being able to identify sneer cultures for what they are is valuable.  Let's make up a fancy name for misidentifying sneer culture, because the rationalist community seems to really like snazzy names for things:

Typical Sneer Fallacy: When you ignore or are offended by criticism because you've mistakenly identified it as coming purely from sneer.  In reality, the criticism was genuine and actually true, to the extent that it represents someone's sincere beliefs, and is not simply from a place of malice.


This is the point in the article where I make a really strained analogy between the different ways in which people enjoy movies, and how Eliezer has pretty extravagantly committed the Typical Sneer Fallacy in this reddit thread.


Some background for everyone that doesn't follow the rationalist and rationalist-adjacent tumblr-sphere:  su3su2u1, a former physicist, now data scientist, has a pretty infamous series of reviews of HPMOR.  These reviews are not exactly kind.  Charitably, I suspect this is because su3su2u1 is a (c) kind of person, or at least, that's the level at which he chose to interact with HPMOR.  For disclosure, I definitely (a)-ed by way through HPMOR.

su3su2u1 makes quite a few science criticisms of Eliezer.  Eliezer doesn't really take these criticisms seriously, and explicitly calls them "fake".  Then, multiple physicists come out of the woodwork to tell Eliezer he is wrong concerning a particular one involving energy conservation and quantum mechanics (I am also a physicist, and su3su2u1's criticism is, in fact, correct.  If you actually care about the content of the physics issue, I'd be glad to get into it in the comments.  It doesn't really matter, except insofar as this is not the first time Eliezer's discussions of quantum mechanics have gotten him into trouble) (Note to Eliezer: you probably shouldn't pick physics fights with the guy whose name is the symmetry of the standard model Lagrangian unless you really know what you're talking about (yeah yeah, appeal to authority, I know)).

I don't really want to make this post about stupid reddit and tumblr drama.  I promise.  But I think the issue was rather succinctly summarized, if uncharitably, in a tumblr post by nostalgebraist.


The Typical Sneer Fallacy is scary because it means your own ideological immune system isn't functioning correctly.  It means that, at least a little bit, you've lost the ability to determine what sincere criticism actually looks like.  Worse, not only will you not recognize it, you'll also misinterpret the criticism as a personal attack.  And this isn't singular to dumb internet fights.

Further, dealing with criticism is hard.  It's so easy to write off criticism as insincere if it means getting to avoid actually grappling with the content of that criticism:  You're red tribe, and the blue tribe doesn't know what it's talking about.  Why would you listen to anything they have to say?  All the blues ever do is sneer at you.  They're a sneer culture.  They just want to put you down.  They want to put all the reds down.

But the world isn't always that simple.  We can do better than that.

Meta post: Did something go wrong?

3 Elo 31 August 2015 10:58PM

There is a post at this link: http://lesswrong.com/lw/mp3/proper_posture_for_mental_arts/


It does not appear in my discussion feed.  See the timestamps in the pictures below:




It's currently 0900 local time on the 1/9/15.  The only reason that I can think of this being wrong is that its a timezone publishing effect.  But I don't know how, or what to do about it...

It also does not appear in an incognito window view of the discussion.


Now what?

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