The Economic Perspective On Moral Standards by Scott Alexander – Scott tries to deal with the fact that ethical systems such as utilitarianism seem ‘infinitely demanding’. He defends a norm of trying to do better than average.
Preschool: Much More Than You Wanted To Know by Scott Alexander – ‘Good randomized controlled trials have shown that preschools do not improve test scores in a lasting way. Sometimes test scores go up a little bit, but these effects disappear after a year or two of regular schooling. However, early RCTs of intensive “wrap-around” preschools like the Perry Preschool Program and the Abecedarians found that graduates of those programs went on to have markedly better adult outcomes, including higher school graduation rates, more college attendance, less crime, and better jobs. But these studies were done in the 60s, before people invented being responsible, and had kind of haphazard randomization and followup. They were also small sample sizes, and from programs that were more intense than any of the scaled-up versions that replaced them. Modern scaled-up preschools like Head Start would love to be able to claim their mantle and boast similar results. But the only good RCT of Head Start, the HSIS study, is still in its first few years. It’s confirmed that Head Start test score gains fade out. But it hasn’t been long enough to study whether there are later effects on life outcomes. We can expect those results in ten years or so. For now, all we have is speculation based on a few quasi-experiments.’
Preference Changing by Brian Lui – A five step process for changing your preferences: ‘To change a preference we must first confront its reality. To change our preferences, we need to deeply understand them. Next, we need to increase the contrast between instances of the desired behavior and the current unwanted behavior. Next, we reflect on whether our preference is a need or a want, and how that interacts with our conception of our identity. Once we’ve detached a preference from our identity, the final step is to examine why we engaged in the behavior in the first place.’
Book Post For October by Ozy – Book reviews: The Demon Haunted World, Teaching Your Child The Foundations of Classical Education, Star Wars: Thrawn, Dark Lord’s Answer.
Social Media Lessons by Robin Hanson – How the internet has changed now that ‘ordinary people’ instead of nerds are the primary users. Ordinary people have systematically different preferences. For example they care much less about privacy and much more about gossip.
World Government Risks Collective Suicide by Robin Hanson – If decisions are made by a single entity then it becomes very hard to avoid suicidal decisions over long time horizons. however if many decision makers agree than its much easier to avoid ruinous decisions long term. This fact makes ‘world government’ very risky.
Non Conformist Influence by Robin Hanson – A mathematical model that implies non-conformists have outsized influence. [brief]
How To Fund Prestige Science by Robin Hanson – Using prediction markets to rate scientific papers. The main idea is that in 30 years a committee will review the paper you are betting on. Hopefully 30 years is enough time for its impact, or lack thereof, to become unambiguous.
Alignment Newsletter 32 by rohinmshah – Weekly AI newsletter. OpenAI released a guide to getting started with reinforcement learning.
Is Philanthropy Bad For Democracy by Rationally Speaking – ‘Rob and Julia debate his criticisms of philanthropy: Does it deserve to be tax-deductible? Is it a violation of the autonomy of recipients to attach strings to their charitable gifts? And do philanthropists have too much power in society?’
Addiction, Depression And A Meaningful Life by Waking Up with Sam Harris – Sam Harris speaks with Johann Hari about his books “Chasing the Scream” and “Lost Connections.”