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In response to comment by Lumifer on Dunbar's Function
Comment author: Good_Burning_Plastic 23 April 2016 10:40:24AM *  0 points [-]

Fat does have more calories per gram than sugar, but I think sugar has more calories per cubic centimeter. (Not that I think that this one is the reason why it is more pleasurable to eat sugar than fat for most people.)

Comment author: Desrtopa 23 April 2016 06:40:34PM 0 points [-]

Sugar crystal is about 1.5 grams per ml, while human fat is about .9 grams per ml, but fat has more than twice the calories per gram.

Comment author: Desrtopa 22 April 2016 03:45:02AM 0 points [-]

Insurance companies are in a much better negotiating position than private buyers, because they're dealing in bulk, so their expenses are based on paying much lower prices for services than their members would get if they bought individually.

Other commenters have already addressed the difference between expected utility and expected monetary return, but in fact having insurance can have a positive expected monetary return simply because you're forced to pay more when buying the services privately.

Comment author: elharo 06 March 2016 05:11:04PM *  0 points [-]

The long term discussed in that article is multiple generations, and there's still evidence there that wealth does transfer to children and further (e.g. the Swedish doctors). It has little to say about the relative efficacy of social programs vs. direct cash grants in alleviating poverty today.

Comment author: Desrtopa 06 March 2016 07:43:53PM 8 points [-]

The evidence with the Swedish doctors versus the lottery winners though, is that it's something other than just the amount of money they have that leaves their descendants better off.

If the reason that the poor are poor is only that they don't have enough money, then it shouldn't be necessary to keep funneling in more money to keep them from being poor. That is, if a person has a low-paying job, but has income supplementation which gives them the same level of money as someone with a better job, then their children should be as likely to be well off as the children of the person with the better job, because both have the same access to money. But in practice this appears not to be the case.

There's a lot of middle ground between "the poor have less money because they're morally lacking and deserve to have as little as they do" and "the poor have less money only because they started out with less money, and the key to being able to make money is already having money.

Having worked as an educator for some persistently poverty-stricken school districts, I have to say that there being a "human capital" element is definitely attested to in my experience, and I don't mean this simply as a euphemism for "genes." I've seen plenty of intelligent, conscientious young people who are going to be seriously disadvantaged in achieving future financial success, because they

  • Haven't been exposed to standards and expectations that prepare them for how hard they'll have to work to compete with similarly intelligent people from more functional environments.

  • Have absorbed disadvantageous social norms about how to manage money (flaunting it via conspicuous consumption, living ahead of paychecks, not investing for future needs or building up a buffer for unforeseen situations, etc.) because these were the examples that everyone they knew who had any money set with it.

  • Engage in a lot of avoidable conflict, because high conflict interpersonal styles are the norm in the social circles they grew up with (but are not the norm in the social circles they're going to have to move in in more lucrative careers.)

  • Have had their learning opportunities sabotaged, because even when they were capable and willing to engage in a high level of learning, they were surrounded by peers who disrupt their teachers' attempts to create an educational environment.

...And so on.

Not just on a personal level, but on a community level, there are different reasons for being poor, and some poor communities may have very different social norms and values (see Kiryas Joel for instance,) but the norms still tend to perpetuate poverty.

I can't claim it constitutes a large data set, but I've watched a couple of people in these communities regress from being financially well off (due to payouts from having won lawsuits) to being poor again in just a couple of years. And I tried to talk them out of the money management habits that were inevitably leading to that. But while they recognized my cause for concern, they made it clear that they wanted to use the money to gain a few short years living in a way that would make them pinnacles of admiration in their community. Neither of them were dumb, but they were reasoning according to the social norms they'd grown up with.

I don't think program paternalism is necessarily a good solution, since being forced to use resources pragmatically doesn't mean that people will learn to use their resources effectively when they have autonomy over them. But I think it's incorrect to suppose that poor people and more affluent people in general are separated only by the amount of money they have access to, and not by any sort of cultural gaps that act to perpetuate their differences in wealth.

As far as simple wealth transfers having a lasting impact, I think it's likely that the impact will tend to be different in different places. With the cash transfers to poverty-stricken Ugandan women, for instance, as the article says, most of them used the money to set some kind of retail operation in motion. They had the motivation to use the money entrepreneurially, but also, crucially, they had access to markets with relatively low competition and barriers to entry. Give a couple hundred thousand dollars to a poor person in an American city, and they might want to use it to start a business, but not many would be able to start a business with those resources which would turn a profit given the level of existing competition they'd have to face.

Comment author: elharo 06 March 2016 01:08:28AM -2 points [-]

It is comfortable for richer people to think they are richer because of the moral failings of the poor. And that justifies a paternalistic approach to poverty relief using vouchers and in-kind support. But the big reason poor people are poor is because they don’t have enough money, and it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that giving them money is a great way to reduce that problem—considerably more cost-effectively than paternalism.

-- Charles Kenney, "For Fighting Poverty, Cash Is Surprisingly Effective", Bloomberg News, June 3, 2013

Comment author: Desrtopa 06 March 2016 12:33:43PM *  1 point [-]

In the short term, giving people money makes them less poor, but in the long term, it may not be so effective.

In response to comment by tim on Why people want to die
Comment author: [deleted] 25 August 2015 10:29:03AM *  7 points [-]

doubled life expectancy of 2015.

Life expectancy (at age 0) has increased mainly because infant mortality and child mortality has decreased dramatically, not because people used to collectively live to 30's and now live to 70's. Most adults in our ancestral past lived to be about as old as people do in western industrialized nations today.

In response to comment by [deleted] on Why people want to die
Comment author: Desrtopa 27 August 2015 01:59:25PM 2 points [-]

However, our expected healthspan (the amount of time for which a person is capable of substantial physical activity and not beset by ailments) has gone up considerably in the last few centuries. Perhaps the relatively few people who made it to old age in hunter-gatherer societies might have had similar healthspans, but they constituted a dramatically smaller fraction of the total populace. The average 35 year old today has decades longer of healthy, productive living to look forward to than the average 35 year old 300 years ago (sources available in this book) and while people occasionally remark on, say, 50 being the new 30, it doesn't seem to leave most people dazzled or mentally unequipped for their new environment.

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 August 2015 01:48:34PM 1 point [-]

I'm highly skeptical that most people actually run out of stuff they take pleasure in over the course of a natural lifespan, or anticipate themselves doing so. Most people may have interests less "open ended" than are the norm here, but I haven't found that people interested in, say, football, tend to find that by their latter years they've had enough of football.

If immortality was available on asking, and some people chose to live forever to pursue their interests indefinitely, I think people who refused to follow their lead because they had simply had enough would be very much in the minority.

Comment author: lionhearted 27 August 2015 12:35:20PM *  -2 points [-]

... is an attempt to pretend that that fundamentally important quality is not of fundamental importance ...

Incorrect. You missed the point.

It's a way to communicate with less analytical people without acting like a clueless sledgehammer that alienates people.

We might both disagree with "Serbia is the greatest country in the world" but that's not a very good argument to communicate to a Serbian who holds that view as deeply true.

Alternatively, do the Spock thing and try to instruct the average Balkan-country citizen on their "language accuracy" and see how far it gets you.

If you can get someone who asserts their opinion is "true" to grant it's true to them but not empirically true you've already won half the battle in helping them think and communicate better.

Comment author: Desrtopa 27 August 2015 01:32:45PM 1 point [-]

I think most people here are aware that there's a gap between how we tend to communicate on Less Wrong or in other rationalist circles, and how people tend to communicate in various other circles. I think that's a component of the concept of inferential distance.

But separating out various types of beliefs into categories such as "empirical truth" and "affective truth" also has a gap of inferential distance from most of the people we'd be using such concepts to communicate with, and I think it's questionable whether it's a step along the direction that brings them closest to the position we're trying to get to.

Comment author: VAuroch 05 August 2015 09:37:42PM 2 points [-]

Read the Tiffany Aching ones. They're not just for children, but especially read them if you have or ever expect to have children. These are the stories on which baby rationalists ought to be raised.

Comment author: Desrtopa 21 August 2015 12:53:12AM 0 points [-]

I have read the first three since I left that comment (so all but I Shall Wear Midnight,) and I thought they were, at least pretty good, as all the Discworld books were, but as far as younger-readers' Discworld books go, I rate The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents more highly.

Comment author: OrphanWilde 30 June 2015 03:07:27PM 4 points [-]

The Olympics should be a good test. Do countries which select Olympic candidates damn-near from birth (China, as one example), and train (groom) them through their young lives to compete, do better than countries which do not?

Comment author: Desrtopa 02 July 2015 03:27:53PM 2 points [-]

This seems a bit hard to isolate from confounding variables though.For example, China might breed and groom basketball players for elite competition (my understanding is they do have some kind of athlete breeding system going on,) but not have access to as high level of basketball coaches and trainers as a country like the United States where basketball is more entrenched in the culture, and it would be hard to measure the impact of these influences separately.

Comment author: ChristianKl 30 June 2015 11:28:01AM 5 points [-]

The common word for "grooming" is education. You find plenty of material on LW about education and thought about human learning.

If you look at the UK quite a lot of political figures do get groomed in Eton and go on to get a degree in Oxford or Cambridge.

In the US you have the ivy league universities. In Yale the Skull and Bones grooms further politicians to the extend that in 2004 the bonesman John Kerry lost to the bonesman George W. Bush.

In France you have Sciences Po.

Those institutions all have power but they the information about how their power works isn't as public as the information about the voting system.

Comment author: Desrtopa 02 July 2015 03:23:04PM 1 point [-]

I think there's an important distinction here this doesn't address though.

Both selection and grooming feature education, but in cases of grooming, a person is being educated for a specific role which they're intended to fill. In cases of selection, the person is acquiring qualifications which will promote them as a candidate for a variety of different positions. Within a system of selection, some people may receive significantly better or more prestigious educations, and this gives them preferential candidacy for higher level positions, but it's not the same as grooming, where a person is selected for the position they're meant to fill before they're educated for it.

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