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Comment author: Thomas 27 October 2014 09:59:57AM 4 points [-]

Where are you right, while most others are wrong? Including people on LW!

Comment author: bramflakes 27 October 2014 07:53:59PM 13 points [-]

My thoughts on the following are rather disorganized and I've been meaning to collate them into a post for quite some time but here goes:

Discussions of morality and ethics in the LW-sphere overwhelmingly tend to short-circuit to naive harm-based consequentialist morality. When pressed I think most will state a far-mode meta-ethical version that acknowledges other facets of human morality (disgust, purity, fairness etc) that would get wrapped up into a standardized utilon currency (I believe CEV is meant to do this?) but when it comes to actual policy (EA) there is too much focus on optimizing what we can measure (lives saved in africa) instead of what would actually satisfy people. The drunken moral philosopher looking under the lamppost for his keys because that's where the light is. I also think there's a more-or-less unstated assumption that considerations other than Harm are low-status.

Comment author: Daniel_Burfoot 27 October 2014 04:29:03PM 0 points [-]

Thanks for asking, here's an attempt at an answer. I'm going to compare the US (tax rate 40%) to Singapore (tax rate 18%). Since SG has better health care, education, and infrastructure than the US, and also doesn't invade other countries or spy massively on its own citizens, I think it's fair to say that 22% extra of GDP that the US taxes its citizens is simply squandered.

Let I be income, D be charitable donations, R be tax rate (0.4 vs 0.18), U be money usage in support of lifestyle, and T be taxes paid. Roughly U=I-T-D, and T=R(I-D). A bit of algrebra produces the equation D=I-U/(1-R).

Consider a good programmer-altruist making I=150K. In the first model, the programmer decides she needs U=70K to support her lifestyle; the rest she will donate. Then in the US, she will donate D=33K, and pay T=47K in taxes. In SG, she will donate D=64K and pay T=16K in taxes to achieve the same U.

In the second model, the altruist targets a donation level of D=60, and adjusts U so she can meet the target. In the US, she payes T=36K in taxes and has a lifestyle of U=54K. In SG, she pays T=16K of taxes and lives on U=74K.

So, to answer your question, the programmer living in the US would have to reduce her lifestyle by about $20K/year to achieve the same level of contribution as the programmer in SG.

Most other developed countries have tax rates comparable or higher than the US, but it's more plausible that in other countries the money goes to things that actually help people.

Comment author: bramflakes 27 October 2014 07:39:49PM *  5 points [-]

I'm going to compare the US to Singapore

this is the point where alarm bells should start ringing

Comment author: bramflakes 26 October 2014 07:11:49PM 28 points [-]

i did it yay me

Comment author: TheAncientGeek 21 October 2014 07:04:08PM *  0 points [-]

Would resources have been of use in fighting pandemics before modern medicine?

Comment author: bramflakes 22 October 2014 10:27:30AM *  3 points [-]

Yes, resources let you have an organized, strong state, which is vital to enforce quarantines. Milan and Venice managed almost completely to shield themselves from the Black Death through stringent isolation of the sick.

Comment author: James_Miller 17 October 2014 03:50:50PM *  5 points [-]

Something seems off about Roman history. Rome should have been in a Malthusian trap which should have made it easy for the army to find recruits among Roman citizens yet for much of the Empire's history this doesn't seem to have been the case as the Empire relied on Germans to fill the lower ranks. Why? What was the check on Roman population growth if it wasn't starvation? Was it disease?

Comment author: bramflakes 17 October 2014 05:53:35PM *  7 points [-]

Home politics in Rome were incredibly fragile. The ruling elites were never really safe from the next angry uprising, which led to all kinds of economic and political appeasement - this is where we get the phrase "bread and circuses" because that's what the Emperor literally had to hand out for free. Whoever proposed heavy conscription would not long keep his job (or head). Italia was essentially a black hole that sucked in resources from the outer provinces - troops from Germania, bread from Aegyptius, taxes from everywhere else.

As for the Malthusian trap, for Italia at least the answer is simple: they emigrated. Joseph Tainter's The Collapse of Complex Societies goes into great detail on Rome's perverse economic/demographic situation.

Comment author: sixes_and_sevens 06 October 2014 10:15:07AM 15 points [-]

Here's a fun game: concepts, ideas, institutions and features of the world we (let's say 21st Century Westerners) think of as obvious, but aren't necessarily so. Extra points for particularly visceral or captivating cases.

For example: at some point in human history, the idea of a false identity or alias wouldn't have even made sense, because everyone you met would be either known to you or a novel outsider. These days, anyone familiar with, say, Batman, understands the concept of an assumed identity, it's that endemic in our culture. But there presumably must have been a time when you would have had to go to great lengths to explain to someone what an assumed identity was.

Comment author: bramflakes 06 October 2014 11:14:31PM *  3 points [-]

The way you raise your children is very important for their life outcomes (common, recent, obvious, and wrong).

Comment author: khafra 03 October 2014 05:17:38PM 3 points [-]

Alien-wise, most of the probability-mass not in the "Great Filter" theory is in the "they're all hiding" theory, right? Are there any other big events in the outcome space?

I intuitively feel like the "they're all hiding" theories are weaker and more speculative than the Great Filter theories, perhaps because including agency as a "black box" within a theory is bad, as a rule of thumb.

But, if most of the proposed candidates for the GF look weak, how do the "they're all hiding" candidates stack up? What is there, besides the Planetarium Hypothesis and Simulationism? Are there any that don't require a strong Singleton?

Comment author: bramflakes 03 October 2014 10:06:28PM 2 points [-]

"They exist but we don't have the tech to detect them"?

Comment author: James_Miller 02 October 2014 12:31:25AM *  16 points [-]

I want to say "live and let live" about non-scientific views. But, then I read about measles outbreaks in countries where vaccines are free.

Zach Weinersmith (Twitter)


Rather than panicking about the single patient known to have Ebola in the US, protect yourself against a virus that kills up to 50,000 Americans every year. It's the flu, and simply getting the shot dramatically reduces your chances of becoming ill.

Erin Brodwin Business Insider

Comment author: bramflakes 02 October 2014 04:43:49PM *  0 points [-]

I feel the Ebola article makes a false comparison. We have highly competent disease control measures that keeps Influenza's death toll bounded around the 50k order of magnitude per year. With Ebola, the curve still looks exponential rather than logistic - if the trend continues we'll have a 6-figure bodycount by January.

A fairer comparison would be Ebola to 1918 Spanish Flu.

(Oh and that isn't even taking into account that the officials have been feeding the media absolute horseshit about the "single patient" with Ebola)

Comment author: Lumifer 01 October 2014 04:26:18PM -1 points [-]

Can you elaborate? I am unaware of the British Empire dehumanizing British settlers in Rhodesia. You don't have in mind the Boer wars, by any chance? That's a different country (and the Boers were not descendants of Brits, too, speaking a different language, for example).

Comment author: bramflakes 01 October 2014 04:47:01PM 2 points [-]

Dehumanize is too strong a word I admit.

"Sold out" would be a better one.

Comment author: Lumifer 30 September 2014 05:15:20PM *  4 points [-]

You'd be amazed at how fast a colonizing country can dehumanize its own descendants as soon as they breed families offshore.

I have strong doubts about that. Can you provide specific examples and expand your argument a bit? Other than the British Empire's disdain for "going native" not much comes to mind.

I also fail to see the relevance of the Boston Tea Party. Exerting military and political power over a colony does not mean dehumanizing the colonists.

Comment author: bramflakes 01 October 2014 04:09:46PM 2 points [-]

Rhodesia comes to mind.

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