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Comment author: chaosmage 22 February 2017 11:56:52AM 2 points [-]

Here's a nifty little trick Sam Harris shared in his recent AMA.

When someone says they don't believe something that you believe and consider to be obvious...

(Examples: "I don't think Trump is a pathological liar" - "I don't think ISIS is motivated by Islam")

...ask them for the counterfactual that would convince them the proposition was true.

(Examples: "What would Trump have to do that would make you think he is a pathological liar?" - "What would ISIS have to do to convince you they are motivated by Islam?")

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2017 03:46:58PM 0 points [-]

This is a useful general prescription against irrationality: if a belief is supported by reason and evidence then you should be able to say what evidence would make you revise it. But it's worth noting that sometimes a belief may be reasonable but really hard to imagine remotely plausible evidence that would change your mind about it. What would Donald Trump have to do that would make you think he's a progressive internationalist who favours open borders and free trade? What would ISIS have to do to convince you that they are primarily an organization dedicated to fostering peace and cooperation among people of different religions?

Clearly it's not actually unreasonable to think that Donald Trump isn't keen on open borders and free trade, or that ISIS aren't particularly into peace and cooperation. But the question you should be able to answer to justify a claim that you believe those things rationally is, I suggest, not so much "what evidence would change your mind?" but "what different evidence would have led to a different conclusion?". If Donald Trump had campaigned on promises to lower tariffs and offer amnesties to illegal immigrants, or if ISIS gave out pamphlets about peace and love and charity instead of blowing things up, I'd have different opinions about them. (Though I'd probably still mistrust both.)

So if someone can't tell you what Donald Trump could do to convince them he's a pathological liar, rather than writing them off you might instead ask them "well, then what could he have done differently that would have led you to think of him that way?".

(Where you think they're not only wrong but obviously wrong, you might reasonably take the view that anyone who thinks the evidence is so one-sided that it would take an impossible amount of future evidence to change their mind is ipso facto probably nuts. So you might write them off after all, if you think no remotely reasonable person could think the evidence overwhelmingly favours Trump not being a pathological liar.)

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 22 February 2017 01:28:26PM *  0 points [-]

The things I previously mentioned such as "Or that there is >50% probability that Brexit will literally lead to a neo nazi state in the UK within 10 years?" are mostly positions expressed by freinds. The group this person joined was advocating violent communist revolution and the murder of enemies of the people (as in it was an explicitly communist group, not a anti-Trump group that had been hijacked by communists), and so cannot be seen as a reaction to Trump or Brexit.

But, in the more general case, there are a lot of people, a lot of centeralists, who are opposed to Trump/Brexit. So people do not need to join forces with extremists to fight them.

(It's not as if the rhetoric of the less-pleasant parts of the political right is any nicer or more sensible than that of the less-pleasant parts of the political left. Intelligent educated friendly right-leaning folk can find themselves with some regrettable -- dare I say deplorable? -- bedfellows too.)

I agree with that, but I think that there is a difference in behaviour due to the fact that the left has been winning in all areas with the possible exception of economics for the last 50 years or more, but suddenly there have been some unexpected rightist victories. Firstly, this means that the left expects to be pushing back the right, and there is a general assumption that, for instance, rightists must disavow and sever all ties with white nationalists but the left can freely associate with extremists.

Secondly, given that the right has suddenly managed to win some victories, might the previous constant leftward march of history change, at least in some areas? In the same way that feminism and gay rights has made constant progress for the last 50 years, might nationalism make constant progress for the next 50 years?

I don't know how much of the left are considering that as a possibility, but I can understand that they might be terrified and lashing out while they still have the ability to.

So yes, the right are not more sensible or nicer in general, its just that right now the left have a greater ability to justify violence. If that changes, then we might live in interesting times.

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2017 03:26:41PM *  1 point [-]

Well, if this person is joining an explicitly and specifically violent communist group, then I guess that indicates that this particular person is sympathetic with violent communism. That's too bad, but it's also pretty unusual and I'd classify it as "this person is broken" rather than "politics is broken" unless what you're seeing is lots of otherwise sensible people joining explicitly violent explicitly communist groups. In that case, either we've got a general resurgence of violent communism (which would be alarming) or there's something unusual about your friends (which would be interesting but not necessarily alarming).

I think you're right that the last several decades have been pretty good for progressive social causes, and that this seems like it might be changing, and that this might lead to more violence from leftists. My guess is that serious politically-motivated violence will remain rare enough that you don't actually need to worry about it unless for some reason you're a specific target, and ineffectual enough that you don't need to worry that it will have much impact beyond the violence itself.

What's there been historically? Occasional riots (usually left) and demonstrations-turned-violent (usually left, though arguably when there's been violence it's been as much due to provocation from the police as to actual violent intent by the protestors). Occasional acts of terrorism (usually right, but occasionally kinda-left as with Kaczynski). All these things are really rare, which is why they make the news, which is why it's easy to get worried about them :-). And they very rarely have any actual influence on what anyone else does.

The single most worrying political-violence-related outcome (to me) is that someone commits some act of violence and the administration uses that as a pretext for major gutting of civil liberties or something of the kind. The historical precedent I'd rather not be using explicitly is of course the Reichstag fire. [EDITED to add:] I mean specifically in the US; elsewhere in the allegedly civilized world I don't think that sort of thing is so likely.

Comment author: math 22 February 2017 06:20:05AM *  0 points [-]

Some of the things it posts are extreme and violent; our hypothetical intelligent leftie deplores that, and would be happier affiliating with a large anti-rightist community that doesn't do that sort of thing -- but all the large anti-rightist communities have people in them who do that sort of thing, so they don't have much choice.

If he's not willing to criticize that stuff on a facebook group, will he be willing to criticize that stuff when it actually gets violent? Remember, it can be dangerous to criticize people actively engaging in violence unless one is a good distance away from them or is protected by other people who are even better at violence.

Comment author: gjm 22 February 2017 11:10:14AM 0 points [-]

will he be willing to criticize that stuff when it actually gets violent? Remember, it can be dangerous [...]

Dunno. The obvious guess would be "not willing to do it in public with the violent people watching, willing to do it when safe from reprisals", which coincidentally is more or less exactly what I would guess if he weren't a member of our hypothetical unkind-turning-violent Facebook group.

(Given that we're talking about a hypothetical person joining a hypothetical Facebook with hypothetical leftist content, in the event that its hypothetical extreme language hypothetically gives way to hypothetical violence, I don't think we can do better than guesses. There isn't enough specificity for more.)

Comment author: skeptical_lurker 21 February 2017 03:26:16AM 1 point [-]

'Overuse of Occam's Razor?'

Anyway, I know that psychology is complex and the explanations I come up with are only my best hypothesis, not one that I would necessarily have >50% confidence in - I should have made that clear. Still, I have trouble thinking of other explanations for why intelligent, educated, friendly people claim to believe that about 50% - 95% of the population are evil?

Or that most old people deliberately vote for bad things because why should they care if they are going to die soon anyway?

Or that there is >50% probability that Brexit will literally lead to a neo nazi state in the UK within 10 years?

Or that the best way to defend democracy in the USA is to assassinate Trump and Pence... despite the fact that they were democratically elected and that the sympathy vote would push the USA far more to the right?

Or that someone would attempt to prove to me that a political party are evil, by showing me a meme saying that they are evil, as if messing about with photoshop confers truth, and then be unable to provide a single non-meme-based argument to support this assertion?

I mean, these beliefs are so crazy that if only one person were expressing these opinions I might worry that they are showing the early warning signs of some form of clinical paranoia. But its widespread, among people who otherwise seem functional.

Comment author: gjm 21 February 2017 01:56:01PM 0 points [-]

I don't know exactly what you've seen and therefore it's possible that the following fails to address it. But on the face of it username2's diagnosis seems very plausible. Not the bit about choosing to see violence-mongering stuff to keep one's awareness and opposition keen; that's taking steelmanning too far.

But: put yourself in the shoes of someone who is, as you put it, intelligent, educated and friendly, whose political opinions are generally leftish, and who is horrified by the rise of right-wing populism as exemplified by Donald Trump and Brexit and Marine Le Pen and so forth. These things alarm them and they want to surround themselves with ideas that point the other way, to reassure themselves that the world isn't entirely against them, etc. So they find a Down With Donald Trump And Brexit group on Facebook and join it. Some of the things it posts are extreme and violent; our hypothetical intelligent leftie deplores that, and would be happier affiliating with a large anti-rightist community that doesn't do that sort of thing -- but all the large anti-rightist communities have people in them who do that sort of thing, so they don't have much choice. Joining the group doesn't mean endorsing everything its members post.

(It's not as if the rhetoric of the less-pleasant parts of the political right is any nicer or more sensible than that of the less-pleasant parts of the political left. Intelligent educated friendly right-leaning folk can find themselves with some regrettable -- dare I say deplorable? -- bedfellows too.)

Comment author: knb 21 February 2017 06:04:39AM 0 points [-]

Isn't a VAT already basically a Robot Tax?

Comment author: gjm 21 February 2017 12:38:00PM 0 points [-]

Seems less so than a tax on corporate profits is. Am I missing something?

Comment author: tukabel 20 February 2017 12:31:51PM 1 point [-]

So Bill Gates wants to tax robots... well, how about SOFTWARE? May fit easily into certain definitions of ROBOT. Especially if we realize it is the software what makes robot (in that line of argumentation) a "job stealing evil" (100% retroactive tax on evil profits from selling software would probably shut Billy's mouth).

Now how about AI? Going to "steal" virtually ALL JOBS... friendly or not.

And let's go one step further: who is the culprit? The devil who had an IDEA!

The one who invented the robot, its application in the production, programmer who wrote the software, designed neural nets, etc.

So, let's tax ideas and thinking as such... all orwellian/huxleyian fantasies fade short in the Brave New Singularity.

Comment author: gjm 20 February 2017 05:28:49PM 0 points [-]

And let's go one step further: who is the culprit? The devil who had an IDEA!

This is the point at which the proposal becomes obviously insane. Not coincidentally, it is also the point at which the proposal stops having anything to do with the thing Bill Gates said he was in favour of. (It is more like saying "we tax income people get from doing their jobs, so we should tax those people's parents for producing a person who did work that yielded taxable income".)

As username2 says, what gets taxed is acquisition of money; when I pay income tax it isn't a tax on me but on my receipt of that income. If anything like a "robot tax" happens, here's the right way to think of it: a company is doing the same work while employing fewer people, so it makes more profit, and it pays tax on that profit so more profit means more tax. We are generally happy[1] taxing corporate profits, and we are generally happy[2] taxing companies when their profitable activities impose nasty externalities on others, and some kinds of "robot tax" could fit happily into that framework.

[1] Perhaps you aren't. But most of us seem to be, since this is a thing that happens all over the world and I haven't seen much objection to it.

[2] This isn't so clear; I've not seen a lot of objection to taxes of this sort, but I also think they aren't used as much as maybe they should be, so maybe they are unpopular.

(For what it's worth, I am not myself in favour of a "robot tax" as such, but if we do find that robots or AI or other technological advances make some kinds of business hugely more profitable then I think it's reasonable for governments to look for ways to direct some of the benefit their way, to be used to help people whose lives become more difficult as machines get good at doing what used to be humans' jobs.)

Comment author: gjm 20 February 2017 05:14:54PM 0 points [-]

"Run some projects the same sort of way as Apollo was run" is not, to my mind, a very worthy goal. What (perhaps) made it valuable to run the Apollo project that way was that the result was to get humans safely to the surface of the moon, developing technology along the way. The process (even if an excellent process) was valuable only for the sake of the actual outcome.

Deploying similar techniques to achieve the building of a big wall between the USA and Mexico is comparably valuable only if having a big wall between the USA and Mexico is as valuable a goal as getting people to the moon and back. Opinions on that could vary, of course.

Comment author: gjm 20 February 2017 05:16:39PM 0 points [-]

Actually, maybe that's not quite right. If Trump is determined to build a wall between the US and Mexico regardless of cost, and if Apollo-style organization can make it much cheaper, then good for Apollo-style organization. But that doesn't suffice to make "used Apollo-style organization to build a huge wall" a better outcome than just "didn't bother building a huge wall".

Comment author: ChristianKl 20 February 2017 01:28:21PM 0 points [-]

And neither will be USA under Trump, France under Le Pen, Hungary under Orbán, etc. This is all just wishful thinking for contrarians.

I can easily imagine that under Trump various prestige projects will be organized this way.

Till now it's just that it's "we will put a wall between the US and Mexico" instead of "we will put a man on the moon". Both cost two digits of billions.

Comment author: gjm 20 February 2017 05:14:54PM 0 points [-]

"Run some projects the same sort of way as Apollo was run" is not, to my mind, a very worthy goal. What (perhaps) made it valuable to run the Apollo project that way was that the result was to get humans safely to the surface of the moon, developing technology along the way. The process (even if an excellent process) was valuable only for the sake of the actual outcome.

Deploying similar techniques to achieve the building of a big wall between the USA and Mexico is comparably valuable only if having a big wall between the USA and Mexico is as valuable a goal as getting people to the moon and back. Opinions on that could vary, of course.

In response to comment by gjm on Basic Income. org
Comment author: morganism 18 February 2017 11:51:05PM 0 points [-]

Frontrunning

https://secure.marketwatch.com/story/hsbc-foreign-exchange-executive-charged-with-front-running-order-2016-07-20-151031929

http://www.businessinsider.com/bank-of-america-accused-of-front-unning-2014-1

https://www.quora.com/Is-HFT-basically-electronic-front-running-due-to-differing-latency

Article out this week on the microwave vs. fiber time delay between NY and Chicago, and a new trans-Atlantic cable being laid just for London quote time efficiency.

Algo trading researcher

http://www.nanex.net/NxResearch/

And the SEC doesn't think he is accurate, but...

http://www.reuters.com/article/us-flashcrash-nanex-idUSTRE6935SA20101004

I would like to see a fee imposed on puts, and have a long enough time for those micro-payments to clear, so that an actual, visible quote is available to call them, rather than just a ramping of prices. It doesn't have to be large, but it does have to clear, to stabilize prices a bit.

I also think you should have to buy your shorts, not just borrow them. Some closely held corps don't even have enough outstanding shares to cover what some short sellers are using against them.

Comment author: gjm 19 February 2017 07:51:01PM *  2 points [-]

Frontrunning

First link has nothing to do with algorithmic trading. Second link has nothing to do with algorithmic trading. Third link is to a Quora question about whether HFT is basically frontrunning, and the top answer says no, it isn't.

I wasn't questioning the existence of frontrunning. I was questioning your claim that algorithmic trading leads to frontrunning and therefore adding small transaction fees would reduce frontrunning. Nothing in the links you posted in reply seems to me to suggest that there's any validity to that claim.

nanex

Your link describes one flash crash, about seven years ago. So far as I can tell there have been maybe four substantial flash crashes. I am happy to agree that extremely short-duration trading anomalies are likely to be the result of automated trading; what I am unconvinced by (and here I wasn't nearly explicit enough, for which my apologies) is that this is actually a big deal. How much actual damage have flash crashes done, in total? My impression is that the answer is "really rather little".

Incidentally, as you say the SEC blame lack of liquidity for the 2010 flash crash; so here's a hypothesis I would be interested to see you refute: Slowing down trading would simply make flash crashes slower. It is not at all clear to me that that would be an improvement. (Does Hunsader's account of things suggest I'm wrong? I don't think so. He suggests deliberate malice by actual human beings, and IIUC his theory is that the proximate cause of the flash crash was a 30-second delay in some sources of price data. In other words, the crash came about in part because for some traders things were too slow.)

I also think you should have to buy your shorts, not just borrow them.

You said that before and I replied "What exactly is your proposal?". I am still interested.

In response to comment by gjm on Basic Income. org
Comment author: morganism 17 February 2017 10:51:05PM 0 points [-]

Actually, we really need at minimum, is a put/call fee, just to slow down the frontrunning that algorithmic trading is driving, it is what causes flash crashes, and huge price spikes, and also is too easy to game that system by having a faster connection...

Would also be nice to force folks to "buy" their shorts, instead of just "borrowing" stocks to short. Too easy to force a hostile takeover that way, and causes companies to carry toxic loads of debt to keep em from being ripe targets.

Comment author: gjm 18 February 2017 02:46:59AM 1 point [-]

the frontrunning that algorithmic trading is driving

[citation needed]

it is what causes flash crashes, and huge price spikes

[citation needed]

and also is too easy to game that system by having a faster connection

You can certainly make more money in HFT with a faster connection. Why is that actually a problem for anyone other than (other) would-be high-frequency traders?

Would also be nice to force folks to "buy" their shorts, instead of just "borrowing" stocks to short.

What exactly is your proposal?

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