The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our incentives but in ourselves

Back in July, Scott Alexander wrote a post titled Meditations On Moloch, which seems to have greatly increased the popularity of fictional deities within the online LessWrongish community. The post vaguely annoyed me at the time, but I couldn’t quite say why until a couple more recent on Scott’s blog referenced it. Oddly, the original “Moloch” post didn’t offer a tidy explanation of what Moloch was supposed to represent, but one of those more recent posts did so: “Moloch is the… Read more

The Interview and Kim Jong Un’s butthole

I’ve seen a bunch of people saying The Interview was awful, so I was a little apprehensive when my family got together to stream it tonight. But I loved it. I don’t know, maybe I have a slightly different perspective on this given that I spent most of the first year of Kim Jong Un’s reign living within missile range of the North Korean border. The movie’s central joke is deflating the personality cult around the Kim family in North Korea. If… Read more

Is finance evil?

In January, I’m headed to New York for an internship at a quantitative finance firm. As a result, I’ve spent a lot of time reading up on finance over the past few months, which means I’m starting to feel qualified to answer everybody’s questions about whether finance is evil. Also, if I write this post now, I can write it without having to awkwardly write around non-disclosure agreements. The boring answer to the question “is finance evil?” is that the… Read more

Sullivan: Ta-Nehisi Coates is just mad about “deviations from the Black Power party line”

Okay, this is embarrassing. In the wake of the implosion of The New Republic, Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an article arguing that the ostensibly liberal magazine had a nasty history of racism. He mentions former TNR Andrew Sullivan’s excerpting of The Bell Curve in the magazine’s pages, but that isn’t the focus of the article: The personal attitude of TNR’s longtime owner, the bigoted Martin Peretz, should be mentioned here. Peretz’s dossier of racist hits (mostly at the expense of blacks and Arabs) is shameful,… Read more

Keynesianism vs. monetarism

I originally posted this on Tumblr, mostly as a way of asking friends, “hey, do I have this right?” But people have assured me it is right, and a few people said they really liked it, so… As I understand it, Keynesianism and monetarism together represent the sane part of the spectrum of possible economic views. (Austrianism is an example of one of the things on the insane part.) Keynesianism and monetarism differ mainly in what they think is the… Read more

Why I invest with Vanguard and Wealthfront

Until relatively recently I was pretty ignorant about personal finance. Most people are. In fact, my guess is that even among people who think they’re informed, a most will get ripped off at some point when it comes to things like their retirement savings. So I’ve started going around trying to give friends and family financial advise–but then I realized it would be simpler to write a blog post and give people the link. The gold standard for where you should be putting… Read more

Filtering who you talk to

Yesterday’s post in Ozy’s line up of re-runs complained about discussion-based college classes. And… I don’t know, maybe I’ve just been much luckier with the philosophy seminars I’ve taken, and some of the things Ozy complains about are definitely bad (the people who don’t want to be there, or who haven’t done the readings). But other seem like actually good things: When you talk about interesting ideas with people, they’re generally people you choose to talk to. Of course, you don’t want… Read more

CFAR workshop review

Since doing my CFAR workshop in September, I’ve been meaning to write a review. Procrastination, in this case, has paid off, since Jess Whittlestone and Kaj Sotala have both recently written blog posts on their workshop experiences that I feel pretty comfortable endorsing. Jess has a nice, easy-to-read bullet-point summary, while Kaj’s post has a couple big-picture points that are worth repeating: That might sound like a weird focus for a rationality workshop, but cognitive science has shown that the intuitive… Read more

Roko’s Basilisk illustrates the problems with the LessWrong community

I’ve previously written about the LessWrong community’s tendency to take crazy ideas far more seriously than they deserve. A lot of what’s convinced me of that is my in-person experience with the community, in my last year of living in the Bay Area (I moved here November 2013). But a lot of that stuff is awkward to talk about online. So in my last post on the subject, I vaguely gestured at things people might know about “if you’ve followed… Read more

Against “consent culture”

I need to start this post off with the disclaimer that I think the BDSM community gets a lot right when it comes to consent. Which is good, because consent is literally the entire thing that distinguishes consensual S&M from assault and abuse. (In fact, it’s the entire thing that distinguishes vanilla sex from rape.) Some of the specific things the BDSM community gets right, and does a good job of teaching people, include “just because you’re into X [where X could be… Read more