Assorted links

by on November 29, 2009 at 11:25 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. "Best buy" programs, from the Poverty Action Lab.

2. More favorite fantasy novel picks.

3. The research productivity of Robert Tollison varies with the business cycle.

4. Economic incentives can work for blood donation: another blow against the Titmuss hypothesis.

5. Blog posts to giggle over; read the comments too.  And then there is Robin's response.

Andrew November 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm

“Unfortunately, the sophistry of its advocates leaves me pessimistic. If they had a ghost of a chance of giving me what I want, they wouldn’t need to twist the English language.”

Some libertarians judge cryonics the way most people judge libertarianism.

Millian November 29, 2009 at 3:26 pm

Cryonics advocacy seems to correlate strongly with self-valuation of one’s own thoughts. It’s an interesting religion but I will stick with my afterlife rather than theirs.

Cyrus November 29, 2009 at 4:24 pm

From an evolutionary standpoint, my preference for self-preservation is a proxy for what I really care about, propagation of my genes. Investments in self-preservation that, on the margin, divert significant resources from my offspring may be malinvestments, and it is no surprise if some feel that forms of self-preservation that do not involve the preservation of my genome are somehow missing the point.

Eliezer Yudkowsky November 29, 2009 at 5:36 pm

Sigh.

Yes, discussions about cryonics often disintegrate into Personal Identity Wars Part XXIV. It’s not even all that large of a factor in the cryonics version of the Drake Equation. If you’re that attached to your “particular atoms”, then the kind of advanced molecular nanotechnology required to do cryonics revival at all, could easily enough rebuild each neuron out of the “original atoms” that went into it.

Now it so happens that this is, knowably, unnecessary labor. That’s a very long story. And I went into it in full detail on Overcoming Bias (now at Less Wrong). It so happens that we live in a universe where, by a stroke of good fortune, it is very easy to see that personal identity cannot possibly go along with a particular set of atoms – since standard physics explicitly rules out the possibility that atoms can possess persistent individual identities, in principle. It would be like trying to say which factor of 3 is which in the number 18.

And if you learn the basic ontology of standard quantum mechanics well enough to understand the notion of “configuration space” and “identical particles” and what is implied by this, you can actually see – not just be told – that personal identity can’t possibly follow particular atoms. You can see that if someone copies your brain, there is not an “original” and a “copy” but rather two originals, or simply two of you. You can see that cryonics preserves exactly everything about you that is preserved by going to sleep one night and waking up the next morning.

But that is a rather long story.

As linked to in the Cryonics page on the Less Wrong Wiki, the long story is told in the sequence Quantum Mechanics and Personal Identity, of which the crowning post is Timeless Identity.

DK November 29, 2009 at 6:53 pm

If cryonics doesn’t work, we can hope Robin will live on as a simulation in Tyler’s brain, a la Tyrone. It’s a little smaller than a full upload, but dies that really matter?

Bob Knaus November 29, 2009 at 6:57 pm

I am surprised that iodized salt did not make the seven “best buys” list. Last I heard, it was near the top of things that governments could do cheaply to improve the health of their population. Much of this was due to resistance from the salt monopolies in India (shades of Ghandi’s salt works protests) but there was considerable improvement to be had in sub-Saharan Africa as well.

Can it be that this particular issue has really gotten better in the last decade? I do hope so.

holmegm November 29, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Sick of hearing about the egoist thing. Get a clue.

Are you … trying to be self-refuting? :)

Bernard Yomtov November 29, 2009 at 9:44 pm

“Sentient life is too precious for it to end up rotting 6 feet under a lawn,”

No doubt. But sentient life will go on long after I, and Sabine Atkins, are rotting under a lawn.

Donald A. Coffin November 29, 2009 at 10:43 pm

Another fantasy series:
Roger Zelazny’s “Amber” books.

I noticed that, on the Crooked Timber site, someone suggested Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. I’d argue that those aren’t fantasy novels, but rather novels of manners, much in the same vein as Jane Austen and the various Brontes.

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