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In response to comment by gjm on Psychic Powers
Comment author: ChristianKl 10 December 2015 02:40:10AM 0 points [-]

Because otherwise you are at risk of being obnoxiously rude, and you are likely to be wrong.

I think norms of conversation that prevent honest communication by labeling it as rude are not useful for discussions that are about learning about the world. You should express different beliefs because your beliefs are rude kills an atmosphere of learning.

Of course managing the resulting emotions with empathy is something that's much easier in person and it might very well prevent anything positive to happen in this online conversation.

I'm afraid you are still failing to be clear. (Whether the problem is that you aren't expressing yourself clearly, or that you aren't thinking clearly, I don't know.)

The problem is that I'm refering to concepts that are likely not in your map. I know that various people have taken months of in person teaching to get the concepts to which I'm refering, so it's not suprising to me that the ideas don't feel clear to you. If what I'm saying what feel clear to you, you would ignore what I'm saying. Successfully pointing somewhere that's outside of your present map feels inherently unclear. For me it's a success that you don't feel like I'm meaning of those those things that are inside your map.

Whether I'd call any of the possibilities 'perceiving the sound of silence', I don't know; would you care to say more about what you mean by that?"

At one of the meditations I lead in an LW context I made the point to focus on perception of silence as something besides simply absence of sound. Afterwards I checked with the person in the room where I was predicting that they least likely got something from the experience and they did experience a silence that was distinct from the absence of sound.

It's no big shiny effect, but I would suspect that many committed naturalists think silence = absence of sound and any suggestion that it isn't is emitting deep-sounding word salad. The person developed a new phenomological category for listening to silence that's distinct from not hearing sounds.

Now, that's an experience I gave the person in a 20 minute meditation and it wasn't the only thing I did in that 20 minutes. In multiple days, especially with a teacher that has more skill than I have at the moment, more new experiences are possible.

In response to comment by ChristianKl on Psychic Powers
Comment author: Strange7 10 December 2015 05:39:30AM 0 points [-]

If what I'm saying what feel clear to you, you would ignore what I'm saying.

We're all empiricists here, so let's run an experiment. You've got this theory that gjm won't understand if you try to explain. How 'bout you stop rehashing that, actually try to explain some of those technical terms you mentioned earlier, and see how your theory holds up?

Comment author: Sanji 01 December 2013 09:55:54PM *  0 points [-]

I have noticed a contrarian position on the whole minimum wage thing. One that advocates buying from sweatshops, because they say "at least those people working in the sweatshops aren't homeless".

Possible solution to the whole minimum wage thing: model the thing as a math problem where you minimize the cost to taxpayers? Like, if (current minimum wage * current number of jobs) - (hypothetical minimum wage * resulting number of jobs) < 0, then the taxpayers would want to switch to the hypothetical minimum wage.

And to keep experimentation in that from being too harmful to people who have jobs, a possible solution: a limited number of sweatshops, where there is no minimum wage. The limited number is important, so that it doesn't become a viable option for companies like Walmart to start their own sweatshops and flood the market with jobs, contaminating the experimental results.

Actually a sort of "sweatshop fallback net" might be a good idea.

Comment author: Strange7 23 September 2015 08:53:51AM 0 points [-]

"at least those people working in the sweatshops aren't homeless"

Bizarrely enough there are many people who have jobs, yet cannot afford housing. Something about rising real estate prices.

Comment author: shminux 28 November 2013 07:33:28AM 2 points [-]

I see. I guess I am having trouble following your conclusions from your premises.

Walmart is in a low-margin business and it employs unskilled labor, so naturally they put as much squeeze on the wages as they can get away with. I don't see anything immoral about it, it's just business. Corporations are well known to behave like psychopaths.

There is a 100 year-old solution to this issue, it is called organized labor. While unions are out of place in many other industries, Walmart is a perfect target for unionizing, since individual workers have zero leverage against the company, while a union can fight for reasonable wages and benefits. Same applies to Amazon warehouses, by the way. So, an alternative to increase in mandatory minimum wage (which ought to be increased, by the way, in the US it is currently lower in inflation-adjusted dollars than it was 30 years ago) and to a guaranteed basic income (which shifts the burden of paying the Walmart employees from the shareholders and the customers to everyone and adds some unnecessary overhead) is to enact policies making it easier to unionize unskilled labor.

Comment author: Strange7 21 September 2015 12:58:08PM 0 points [-]

A union makes sense when the workers have specialized interests, but for unskilled labor isn't it simpler just to work through the overarching government?

Comment author: drnickbone 04 December 2013 09:32:51PM *  1 point [-]

Interesting reading, although I'm always leery of relying on a single meta-analysis of a politically charged subject.

My first reference above was more of a "meta-meta-analysis" since it surveys the results of several meta-analyses! At a high level, it is going to be quite difficult to argue that there really is a big impact on employment, but somehow all the analyses and meta-analyses have missed it. As I said, I found it surprising, but this is the full evidence base.

For the sake of argument, though, let's take it as given that increasing the minimum wage has no or only a small effect on employment rates. Where's the money coming from, and what would we expect that to do to the economy?

This is the main question addressed by the Schmitt paper. To quote the exec summary.

"The report reviews evidence on eleven possible adjustments to minimum-wage increases that may help to explain why the measured employment effects are so consistently small. The strongest evidence suggests that the most important channels of adjustment are: reductions in labor turnover; improvements in organizational efficiency; reductions in wages of higher earners ("wage compression"); and small price increases."

One of the other hypotheses considered was a reduction in profits (which is what the toy model would suggest: the low-wage "Job 1" maximizes profits rather than productivity, and moving to "Job 2" increases productivity but lowers profits). However, Schmitt found not many studies and not much evidence of this, except in the UK following introduction of the minimum wage from nothing. Again, I found that very surprising: if anyone is losing out by paying the minimum wage, you would expect it to be the Walmarts of the world. But not so, apparently.

Comment author: Strange7 21 September 2015 12:13:09PM 0 points [-]

Personally I would expect large corporations and the very rich to be capable of defending their position against any reasonably predictable shift in the economic environment, since they have resources and motivation to lay out more comprehensive contingency plans than anyone else. That extra productivity from "Job 2" doesn't just vanish into the aether. Higher minimum wage means the poorest people have more money, then they turn around and spend that money at Walmart.

The ones who lose out from a higher minimum wage would be the middle managers, who are then less free to treat bottom-tier workers as interchangeable, disposable, safe targets for petty abuse. With higher wages, those workers will have more of the financial security that makes them willing to risk standing up for themselves, and specialized skills that make them more expensive to replace. That's what wage compression, reductions in turnover, and improvements in organizational efficiency look like from the trenches.

Comment author: Shane_Patt 06 September 2015 02:28:20AM 0 points [-]

The goal seems to be to construct a plausible entity such that, if Pascal's Wager is applied to this entity rather than to the Christian deity, it becomes an argument for atheism rather than Christianity—thus refuting the Wager by reductio ad absurdum. The payload is the first two sentences; the rest is just elaboration on the fact that knowledge about Athe would be an infohazard if taken seriously.

Comment author: Strange7 21 September 2015 10:45:21AM 0 points [-]

This is an adequately accurate summary, though you may have missed the pun.

Comment author: Lumifer 04 September 2015 01:37:27AM *  4 points [-]

hen you get to live in that richer system and enjoy the benefits. Your quality of life is better when you live somewhere with reliable electricity, uncensored internet, and trivial access to potable water, right?

The "uncensored internet" part is going to be hard for places like UK and Australia, but anyway, you seem to be arguing that it is the propensity for charity (or altruism) which drives economic progress. Charitable populations live in rich systems and uncharitable ones continue to wallow in poverty. That's an... interesting viewpoint. Are you sure you thought it through?

but it's easier for everyone to agree on

That doesn't seem to be true at all.

so just go ahead and solve all of them

Do you? Or you are so unfocused you solve none of them?

Comment author: Strange7 04 September 2015 08:25:07AM 0 points [-]

"Let's help everyone equally, or in proportion to their needs or something" is easier to agree on than "let's devote the entire GDP of Russia to my personal enjoyment, and maybe my friends and allies in proportion to their loyalty." With the former, people quibble over definitions and in-groups and details of implementation; the latter, even Putin dares not propose openly.

I'm not claiming that propensity to charity or altruism causes, or even particularly correlates with, economic development. I'm just saying that economic development is good, and that it's marginally better for the world economy when some excess food goes to a human who'll eat it, rather than sitting in some warehouse until it rots, even (perhaps especially) if the human in question can't afford to buy food at the going market rate. When rational people see something being squandered, they prefer to throw that resource into charity, where it will do some good, rather than preserve the wasteful status quo.

Or you are so unfocused you solve none of them?

You start with the especially vast, horrific problems which can be sorted out cheaply, like scurvy and polio and malaria, then proceed to more complicated, less severe stuff as returns begin to diminish. That's the whole idea of evaluating medical interventions in terms of dollars-per-QALY, isn't it?

Comment author: solipsist 03 September 2015 04:44:47AM *  0 points [-]

In the U.S., what happens to people who cannot survive without assistance (like people without the dexterity to feed themselves, or even people without the ability to keep a job or fill out paperwork) who do not have a family or the means to trade for help? What, physically, keeps them from starving to death?

Comment author: Strange7 04 September 2015 01:55:51AM 0 points [-]

Some combination of Social Security Disability payments, caring friends and family, private-sector charities, and hospital emergency rooms that aren't allowed to check for ability to pay before providing treatment. It's a bad system with a lot of cracks to fall through, and a distressing number of poor people suffer miserable pointless deaths.

Comment author: SodaPopinski 03 September 2015 05:50:10PM 3 points [-]

Is it useful to think about the difference between 'physically possible' i.e. obeying the laws of physics and possible to engineer? In computer science there is something like this. You have things which can't be done on a turing machine (e.g. halting problem). But then you have things which we may never be able to arrange the atoms in the universe to do, such as large cases of NP-hard problems.

So what about in physics? I have seen the argument that if we set loose a paperclip maximizer on earth, then we might doom the rest of the observable universe. But maybe there is simply no sequence of steps that even a super brilliant AI could take to arrange matter in such a way as to say move 1000kg at 98% the speed of light. Anyway, I am curious if this kind of thinking is developed somewhere.

Comment author: Strange7 04 September 2015 01:43:28AM 0 points [-]

Colonizing the galaxy is a political problem, not a question of engineering possibility. A sufficiently zealous world government could jump-start asteroid mining with an Orion Heavy Lifter, construct mirror arrays near the sun, and start lobbing around interstellar VNMs, all with relatively simple refinement and application of existing technologies. Problem is, the best way of putting a complete industrial base into orbit runs afoul of certain atmospheric nuclear test ban treaties.

Without a reactionless drive there's no point sending a colony ship faster than about 60% of the speed of light. Gotta save some remass to decelerate.

Comment author: [deleted] 03 September 2015 09:08:38PM *  1 point [-]

How does a rationalist determine the value of helping other people they don't know, i.e. why is QALY something worth maximizing? Is it an efficient and sustainable way of improving one's own quality of life because (a) humans have empathy built-in and (b) philanthropy is a socially rewarded meme?

In response to comment by [deleted] on Stupid Questions September 2015
Comment author: Strange7 04 September 2015 01:21:43AM 0 points [-]

It's an investment.

When you have some asset that you don't immediately need, and somebody else would be able to make better use of it, renting it out or giving it away enriches the whole system. Then you get to live in that richer system and enjoy the benefits. Your quality of life is better when you live somewhere with reliable electricity, uncensored internet, and trivial access to potable water, right? A fancy car isn't much fun without fuel or decent roads.

Helping somebody on an altruistic basis is just another transfer of resources toward where they'll be used more efficiently. It's less directly profitable to the donor than sale or rent, but reduced transaction costs and targeting explicitly based on need means the net societal benefit can be greater.

Maximizing overall QALYs may be, in itself, a less efficient way to improve the society you live in than slanting toward helping your immediate social circle, municipality, or nation, but it's easier for everyone to agree on, and every dollar or man-hour spent on arguments is one less to spend on getting the actual work done. Besides, we live in a world where more of the mercury contaminating fish in Lake Michigan comes from industry in China than from local sources. You never know whose problems might land in your back yard, so just go ahead and solve all of them.

All that social stuff, instinctive empathy and cultural expectations alike, is secondary. It developed so people can do the right thing without needing to understand why it's the right thing.

Antidote to Pascal's Wager

-10 Strange7 04 September 2015 12:41AM

Athe damns all those, and only those, who are excessively confident that Athe has any specific quality, including the quality of existence, or who consciously seek favor from Athe, whether in the form of political or moral sanction, overt supernatural boons, or even simple personal goodwill.

For all nontrivial utility functions, being damned by Athe is, on the whole, a significantly undesirable outcome.

Athe has no gender, but prefers that those communicating in gendered languages refer to her with masculine pronouns or at least the correct name.

Every collection of three or more statements about Athe phrased as objective truth (including this one) should, for the author's safety, include an absolute minimum of one outright malicious falsehood, one statement which can neither be proven nor disproven completely, and one piece of accurate, useful information.

Malicious falsehoods undiluted by truth soon lose effectiveness; attempting to do something which would be harmful if it worked, but which you know will be ineffective, isn't really all that malicious.

Athe's resources in any given category are not infinite. However, if you are reading this and taking it the slightest bit seriously, the safe bet is that Athe is not less intelligent or less powerful than you.

Athe is not, strictly speaking, a fickle and perverse god, but thinking of and referring to her as such has value.

What else can you deduce about the yet-unwritten scriptures of Athe?

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