Friday assorted links


#7 --> Some in the psychology community have already suggested that the true cause is mass hysteria. Absent any kind of physical evidence, the suggestion that US diplomats were victims of a top secret acoustic weapon or ototoxin is outrageous. The real question is why the US government would make such an announcement and why the media would repeat the claims without being able to offer anything in the form of real, actual evidence. Readers beware.

"mass hysteria" is also something we should probably have a fair amount of skepticism about.

But I agree that the episode seems very odd, and the theories that it is some sort of super secret spy weapon sound farfetched.

That was my first thought when I heard about it. Different symptoms are being reported by different people, some quite odd. It's entirely consistent with psychosomatic disease. And we expelled Cuban diplomats over this. What would be Cuba's motive in reversing a tide of reduced tension?

Many of the symptoms are of the type that could be construed as psychosomatic, but there are measurable signs of hearing loss. And a good audiologist has techniques to determine if someone is faking hearing loss. If multiple people have simultaneously experienced true hearing loss, something weird is going on.

Psychosomatic symptoms are real.

They are caused by disorders of the brain rather than disorders of the body, but they are still real. Look up "hysterical blindness" for an account of the most notable example.

#6 - No. Fifty is early. Wait until one is staring at 70. Personal experience. Anecdotal. Everything becomes tedious/tiresome. Everything becomes a chore.

Seems like a way to make humans not fear death so much.

From my experience with much older relatives, most of them are pretty worn down right before they go, they don't fear it anymore, it's a relief.

"6. Does stress decline after age 50?"

I've had fewer colds since about age 52. In my prime, I was typically sick about, say, 30 days per year, now down to about 5. That's a major relief of stress, especially since colds just happened when they would no matter what one's plans.

And you weren't immunocompomised somehow?

Same for me Steve. I put it down to possibly no longer having young kids (the source of a lot of germs) and perhaps simply having gained immunity to most cold germs. I do also wonder if a cold is worse if you have a strong immune system, many of the symptoms of a cold are the virus basically hi-jacking your immune response to spread itself, so as you get older your immune system starts to weaken and then you paradoxically suffer less or not at all from minor infections.


Must be those superior White genes.

Gee, I can't wait. I'm 63, not in perfect health but not terrible either, and every day is fascinating.

"1. Nate Cohn on why you should not trust issue polling (NYT)."

"It’s not useful to look only at the whole public ..."

This always seems to be the most important point. The issues are decided by the Public representatives. Unless you are carefully selecting for people that are active voters, then you are introducing a large amount of noise to your output.

Fundamentally, we live in a Republic and not in a direct Democracy. The opinions of people that don't vote are noise to a poll that is attempting to have any kind of predictable output. Furthermore, younger people are both less likely to vote and be more Progressive. However as they age, they tend to vote more often and to become more Conservative. So, any broad population survey is going to have a Progressive bias compared to the Representative that create the Laws.

Concentrated minority interests often prevail over diffuse majority interests, when there's more return to political action for members of the minority than the majority. Lower the individual cost of political action, and the equilibrium changes.

"Lower the individual cost of political action, and the equilibrium changes."

Well sure, but why would the people who have the power to change the cost of political action want to make it cheaper and less valuable?

1. and 5. True, one should not trust issue polling. Arguing hat "polls" (moreover without source) show that half or more of Catalans are against independence, as many media do, including this blog, is preposterous. The only way to know which proportion of the Catalan is for independence is to organize a referendum there.

The solution is simple, but it needs far-seeing politicians that are lacking in Spain. The central government should organize, as soon as it is practical, with the help of the automomous province, an official referendum in Catalonia alone, over the question "do you want to be independent from Spain". This referendum would be non-binding for Spain. If "no" prevails (which is likely), the problem is solved for one generation. If "yes" prevails, Spain must decide how it handles the clear request for independence of the Catalans. An enlighted government should push to accept the independence of Catalonia, because nothing good can come from denying self-determination. This would probably require a second referendum, now for all Spain (without Catalonia would be more logical, but if it is impossible for some constitutional reason, let them vote), asking "knowing that Catalonia has requested independence, shall Spain accept it?" Here the Spanish "demos" would have a clear choice: letting Catalans go or denying their right to leave, probably prompting an independence war. I'm sure they would overwhelmingly accept independence.

This plan seems to address all the constitutional issues raised by the anti-independence side. It is inspired (though not exactly the same) by what our president De Gaulle did with Algeria in 1959-1962, ending a 8 years extremely bloody war. The French people approved the independence by more than 90% in April 1962. If implemented in 1954, when the war begin, or even before, it would have prevented irreparable damages. But of course, the question is: is there a De Gaulle in Spain?

Politicians should not be slavishly obedient to polls, but they should pay some attention as they do need some way, however imperfect, to gauge public opinion. And while polls certainly do have errors, the error bars are not infinite. Any polling that shows a policy doing badly with a large number of people (e.g., both the ACA in 2010 and Repeal and Replace this year) should be a big red flag to those pushing it.

Lowering taxes always polls well, however.

In theory, but as soon as you get into details opposition arisen.

I suspect that Americans revealed preference is that they are fairly satisfied with the current tax system. This is especially true if you realize that republicans and democrats are talking about very different things as far as tax reform goes.

"Here the Spanish “demos” would have a clear choice: letting Catalans go or denying their right to leave, probably prompting an independence war. I’m sure they would overwhelmingly accept independence."

Is there any historical evidence that those in power have ever "overwhelmingly accept[ed] independence" rather than civil war? Algeria had to go the war route before France allowed independence, it would seem to be a unsupported leap of faith to believe that instead the leadership would have granted independence if there had been a referendum earlier. Which is likely why there was not a referendum earlier.

Serbia has accepted the independence of Montenegro without problem recently, Slovakia got its independence easily too.
Frange gave independence without a war, but with a referendum (organized by de Gaulle) to all its colonies in Black Africa
at once in 1960. Many, though by no means all, British colonies went independent without a fight. Lenin had the soviets vote a resolution accepting independence from Russia of all the nations belonging to the tsar -- after the confused period of the civil war, Finland and three baltic states were indeed independent. Again, Gorbachev, after admittedly a very small war with the Baltic countries, let go without a fight all the Republic of the Caucase, of Central Asia, and Ukraine and Belarus.
I have no doubt that the UK would have let Scotland go without war if independence had won the last referendum, and similarly for the US and Porto Rico.

Examples of independences which go well seem as numerous as independence wars. Of course, we tend to remember the wars longer.

3. Coming from the self appointed king of rationalists, his analysis disappoints me.

"I used to think—not from experience, but from the general memetic atmosphere I grew up in—that executives were just people who, by dint of superior charisma and butt-kissing, had managed to work their way to the top positions at the corporate hog trough."

and then:

"He gave off a visible aura of competence.", "Hedge-fund people sparkle with extra life force."

Is he sure he's not just describing what he earlier called "superior charisma"?

Even if these elites are somehow better than the rest of us, can we know for sure which way the causation goes? Succeeding tends to give people confidence in themselves which could result in many of the characteristics he describes. Many smart and educated people have original and well-thought opinions on things, but only people with self-confidence trust their ideas enough to actually express them to a bunch of strangers (especially to ones who are deemed to be of high social status).

"[...]these CEOs and CTOs and hedge-fund traders, these folk of the mid-level power elite, seemed happier and more alive."

Again something that could be fully attributed to being successful and of high social status.

As I understand his writing, he seems to think that these people rose to the top because they were so superior compared to everyone else to begin with. Everything in his writing suggests that the opposite could also be true.

Or these people are not that special at all compared to "normal" highly educated, smart people. Eliezer knew these people were kind of high status even before the meeting. A rationalist should know that our experiences tend to be shaped by our expectations. If he had met Steve Jurvetson in a neutral setting without knowing who he is, would he still have been so impressed by his articulation and intelligence?

are you just now realizing that Eliezer Yudkowsky is a glorified barnacle?

"are you just now realizing that Eliezer Yudkowsky is a glorified barnacle?"


Never thought much of the guy. Didn't take much reading to figure out he was giving himself a hand(job) in this post.

Why do you say that?

Seems like if he was as smart as he makes himself out to be, he would be pushing the boundaries of science rather than writing a blog and worrying about Roko's basilisk.

A lot of very-high-IQ people have a tough time in life. Some work in the library, at a university in a routine job, or at an actuarial or investment firm as the in-house genius whom nobody wants to talk to. At least Yudkowsky has an immensely popular blog, can write, and has the respect of big-name intellectuals such as Tyler and Robin Hanson. (In addition, my own work refers to one of Yudkowsky's papers.) What is a glorified barnacle?

He seems like a smart guy, but also overly impressed with himself. Puzzling for someone without tangible, lasting, humanity-changing achievements. There are plenty of smart people with blogs.

A lot of these observations could also be the result of the fact that Yudkowsky felt flattered to be included among a group of people he himself calls "elites."

I am not sure why so many people in the "rationalist community" like to refer to "the elites," but to me it sounds so silly. It's so disconnected from the world in which I live, where some people are rich and some people are poor, where wealth and intelligence are adjectives that describe various people who are all fundamentally of equal worth. With the "rationalists," I really get the feeling that they think the world is run by a super-secret, super-exclusive club, and that the greatest achievement for any person is to become a master of the universe, a member of the ruling elite.

It just seems so bizarre from my vantage point.

"With the 'rationalists,' I really get the feeling that they think the world is run by a super-secret, super-exclusive club, and that the greatest achievement for any person is to become a master of the universe, a member of the ruling elite."

I think that's because most of them are upper middle class millennials, and the mentality you describe is very common among that cohort.

It's like big "I" Independents and small "i" independents. The Rationalists make it hard out there for the rationalists.

Yeah we definitely got brainwashed by the Pinky & Brain cartoons in our youth.

> It’s so disconnected from the world in which I live, where some people are rich and some people are poor, where wealth and intelligence are adjectives that describe various people who are all fundamentally of equal worth.
> It just seems so bizarre from my vantage point.

Well that's because you don't live among the elite.

The "elite" the article refers to are CEOs of innovative, top-performing firms. That seems to be a pretty reasonable use of the term.

The value of using that term in any context other than, say, "elite athlete," where it actually signifies a particular tier in a particular field, is highly debatable. Just referring to a roomful of CEOs as "elites" doesn't mean much.

Succeeding tends to give people confidence in themselves which could result in many of the characteristics he describes. Many smart and educated people have original and well-thought opinions on things, but only people with self-confidence trust their ideas enough to actually express them to a bunch of strangers (especially to ones who are deemed to be of high social status).

Listen to a talk radio call-in show sometime. There is little correlation between intelligence, success, and willingness to express one's opinions.

I suppose I shouldn't be shocked at the replies on this thread. Eliezer's reaction matches that of Jordan Peterson (who has a great you tube rant on the topic) and, to be honest, matches my observations. Elites are, generally, amazingly hard working, exceptional functional humans.

You will generally find more competent people as you gaze higher and higher up the org chart, especially if you work at a "top" firm.

Sorry if that hurts.

Depends on the company. I've worked for a few orgs where senior management were definitely doofuses. But that taught me about how inefficient firms can be and still survice. Just look at the US Govt org chart, too...

So because of "the general memetic atmosphere I grew up in" he was surprised to discover that meritocracy may very well be mostly a reality. That says more about his "memetic atmosphere" than his intellect.

Yes there might be reasons Eliezer is wrong, including that he's easily swayed by charisma, but this criticism can be made of literally any statement 'group X is really brilliant based on my experience' (eg "low status group is actually really smart"--> "you just gave them a low bar"; "middle status people are actually the smartest" --> "you're just saying that because it's your group!"). I mean how exactly are you supposed to prove these types of assertions? Eliezer is putting up a counternarrative and putting some hedges around it because he knows it's impressionistic. I don't recall him using this as some sort of basis for any other thinking, so it's not as though he expresses confidence in the view.

And to the person asking why he's not building tech gadgets, he is working in AI.

If by "working in AI" you mean "pontificating about AI," rather than actually contributing to computer science, math, or related fields: sure.

He's putting out a rather silly counter to a very silly narrative. He also does seem quite swayed by the charisma he claims to discount, and it's odd how willing he is to conflate good chat (and sparkles!) with competence. Those are very different things.

He needs to spend less time worrying about how smart he is or isn't.

The post is from 2008. I agree that his analysis seemed a bit off to me, but I don't really see why a 9 year old post is news today. Has he been in the news for other reasons recently?

(It seems Slate Star Codex recently linked to this very Less Wrong Post. I guess we know which blog Tyler has been reading lately).

The one that's, well, good.

1. I don't think you can put a good face on this, or blame the polls. If the voters are rejecting their own reasoned analysis to .. what are the words from last year .. protest, express resentment, burn it down.

The voters are misusing the mechanisms of democracy for irrational ends.

To put it differently, any democracy (representative or not) presumes that voters will seek "a better government" at each iteration. When they instead try to throw wrenches into the works .. you get a broken machine.

To pick the less obvious example, Brexit would be an example of a "broken machine," chosen by people who "know better" if you ask them the right poll questions.

People have vastly different ideas of what "a better government" looks like. Support for a policy like Brexit is not proof of bad faith.

I agree that some people vote for shallow reasons rather than policy, though, and too much of this is a serious threat to good governance.

People do differ on what's better, but what I'm looking at are "anomalies" where rational poll questions and answers point one way, and democratic results run the other.

If people believe that Brexit will be better for themselves and the nation financially, and vote that way, there is no anomaly.

What if people believe Brexit is better for the nation and themselves for NON-financial reasons? Because that's the main thing motivating the Leave crowd, it's not money. Is that a threat to good governance, must all votes be solely about financial benefit? Also, there will be some financial winners and some financial losers (probably more of the latter) with Brexit. Many of the Leave votes were probably people whose pocketbooks wouldn't be affected too much.

That is the difficult question. I considered leaving out "financial" but it leads to .. "utility."

Basically if Brexit will worsen financial conditions for you and your children, how much credit should we give you for thinking it "feels better?"

Is it reinforcing a pathology to say "good choice?"

The EU is pathological.

Is the EU more or less pathological than truck stop and inspections at every European border? Than tariffs between "countries" smaller than some US counties?

(San Bernardino county 20K sq. miles, Denmark 17K sq. miles)

As I said, for many Leave voters it won't worsen financial conditions for them and their children in any noticeable way. And again, there's simply more to life than money especially at the ballot box. Feels and tribes have usually been the main driver of elections.

You don't need an entire transnational bureaucracy to not have border checkpoints and tariffs!

Come on Jeff. There are two ways to achieve that. One is to have a transnational system in place, like the EU. The other is to have constant multiparty negotiations raging at all times. New technologies, products, and business practices are constantly invented.

How, without an EU, would a truck of "goods" travel from Sweden to Greece without stops?

Six party talks?

"Feels and tribes have usually been the main driver of elections."

A nihilist wouldn't care, because nothing matters.

Yeah, like most things it's a matter of degree. No regulation is bad, too much is bad, let's figure out the optimum. A wildly overintrusive EU is bad, zero European integration/Schengen is bad, let's figure out the optimum. For many in the UK, the costs outweigh the benefits of the EU, and more of them voted when the question was asked. Note the UK is not connected to the EU by land (yes I know except N.I.) so they are less in need of easy border crossings.

I wouldn't know, Anonymous, you should ask a nihilist about that

NAFTA seems to accomplish those same things without a corrupt, inefficient bureaucracy, nor does it require constant renogiations. What makes the EU different? If free trade and free movement of peoples is such a no-brainer, why would you need a supra-national organization to twist so many arms over it?

3 parties vs 28?

Note how much Brexit relies on Britain negotiating with 1 counterparty, the EU, rather than 27 separate governments.

I think even the simplest Brexit will lower the GPD curve, and the area under the curve goes on forever, but EU disintegration would be so much worse for every member.

Britain will not be materially harmed by Brexit. It's GDP growth rate will not deviate from its current long term trajectory.

No GDP hit? Doesn't that presume remarkable magnanimity from the EU?

I would count on some explicit penalties, both from human psychology and from game theory - to disincentivize further exits.

"less obvious " is an understatement. Government is self perpetuating and needs pruning like every other invasive species. Brexit is such a pruning of government form people's lives. The EU started as a common market, grew with a common currency and then injected itself into the everyday lives of the citizens. Time to weed the garden.

That is a prime example of pathological belief. Someone just invented "drones with a shotgun." Should we regulate that?

"No, government is an invasive species."

Congratulations on another internet victory over a strawman.

There was a nice line from Jordan Peterson: "Anyone who attributes everything to one cause is ideologically obsessed."

That applies to those who think "government" is a uniform quantity, about which the only choices are "more" or "less."

Well, your attribution of all voting that doesn't go your way as pathological is your ideological obsession now isn't it.

I discuss one sort of anomaly from the top article, when voters vote against their own stated judgements. That's not "my" judgement. It is when you ask them "which is better A or B?" they say A, but when they vote they say B.

Depends on how the questions are asked and the votes are structured. But sure, people are not perfectly rational automatons as I'm sure you know. I just saw on my elevator newsfeed screen than a survey showed that over 50% of those surveyed (in the US) thought we would have robo-cars being the dominant form of auto by 2050 but less than 25% of them said they would ever ride in one...

I find it interesting that anonymous is extremely worried about drones with shotguns, and feels this pressing matter must be regulated, but has no fear of humans in government ever needing to be "regulated."

When government overspends, overpromises, or overregulates, these are just to be expected and any talk of "weeding the garden" should be considered crazy talk.

Of course we should allow the state of California to ban diesels based on junk science - its government doing the "drone with a shotgun" in that case.

Of course we should allow Puerto Rico to borrow and squander money. Its not like if it were a taxpayer wasting money, after all. That is the true fear. They might buy a drone and shotgun.

That is a very poor reading, Harun.

The key question is how government can be static as technology advances.

Or in the case of diesels, how government can be static when medical knowledge advances.

We just discovered X is a carcinogen, should we ban it?

"No, because government is the problem."

Delete your account, Harun.

3. So what. If meritocracy leads to sh*tty results, and there are better systems for guiding decision making at a societal level, who cares if the elite are happy and brilliant. Every nation has its aristocrats; it was the Plebians who made Rome great. De Toqueville would probably agree.

Point well taken. Every country has an elite; what makes America great (Trump can kiss my ass, it's already great) is that the non-elite is also tremendously capable and motivated. Or was. There are exceptions but I think they still are.

From #2:

"the U.S. was changing its regulatory landscape to favor big companies and established firms (largely through overturning anti-monopoly laws and permitting industry consolidation), "

That doesn't match my observations. Yes, the regulatory landscape has changed to favor big companies, but it's slightly outlandish to claim it's a result of "overturning anti-monopoly laws and permitting industry consolidation".

It's pretty clear that over the last 30 years the US has seen a drastic increase in business regulation across the board. Environmental regulations, HR regulations and legal best practices, safety regulations, handicap accessibility, energy efficiency regulations, insurance regulations, etc all tend to favor companies big enough to afford lobbyists to protect their interests and afford lawyers and support staff to handle all of the paperwork. Extra regulations introduce compliance costs. Those compliant costs are going to inhibit business growth.


In the last 30 years SWEDEN "has seen a drastic increase in business regulation across the board. Environmental regulations, HR regulations and legal best practices, safety regulations, handicap accessibility, energy efficiency regulations, insurance regulations, etc." If you think the US is hyper-regulated go live in Sweden (I have); the US is a libertarian paradise in comparison. For example, the Swedes environmental regs are on steroids compared to the US'. And despite this level of regulation, the country thrives.

Fair point.

"And despite this level of regulation, the country thrives."

However, define thrives. Is Sweden doing significantly better than the US?

Comparing the countries it looks like they are roughly the same except that Swedes have much smaller houses and much more expensive transportation costs. But with much less crime.

Sweden typically scores near the top in ease of doing business and economic freedom. The whole point is that Sweden makes it easy to hire or fire someone, they’re ethnically homogenous so no discrimination lawsuits, and women overwhelmingly work in the public or quasi public sector.

So yeah. Always remember, when America decides to use the state for something, it not only does it incompetently but also costs multiples of what it would cost in another country.

When we talk about how awesome transferring things to the government is, remember it costs us many times more to build a bridge or sewer line than it does elsewhere. Or staff a DMV, or have a local police force.

If it’s America, it’s going to be incompetent AND exponentially more expensive.

Sweden incurs more deadweight loss in taxes, but their government is competent and well managed, and has a massive subsidy in high human capital Swedish women who choose government work. In the US brilliant women work for Goldman, not the municipal transportation office. So we’re richer, but our government is a trainwreck.

Ethnically homogenous? You're joking right? Sweden is 27% immigrant.

I suspect most of those immigrants are from places like Norway, Finland, Denmark, Germany, etc. Not all of course.

The old argument was that taxes at European levels stifled economic growth and job creation. Now, apparently, the argument is that the U.S. simply has a much lower quality government than Sweden does and that higher taxes or different policies cannot fix this fundamental defect in American governance and society. Interesting.

You are reading fake news about sweden, but it also has fake news about the US.

It mentions deregulation in Sweden to make starting taxi businesses easier. But the US has millions of taxi company startups. It couldn't be easier. If you have a driver licence and a car and can pass a background check made by the poorly managed but high profit equifax,, you are a taxi company with several rent seekers giving you fares for a cut.

In Sweden, paying workers requires paying a 25% tax, much higher than taxes on paying workers in the US, and the wages you must pay in Sweden are much costlier.

I note you want workers to not be paid to cut costs and jack up profits. You want workers and customers and the people harmed and killed to eliminate paying workers. And you want not paying workers rewarded by government. Trump screwing workers as a businessman seems to have increased his appeal.

But you are blind to the ease of starting businesses in the US because the owner is the worker and he is paid very low wages and all the profit goes to the Trump figures who screw the small business owner. The most famous with the same kinds of disrespect for women as Trump, and also unable to actually make Uber profitable, even not paying the workers it outsources to because they are capitalists driving their required capital asset for very low income. The small business startups Uber outsources to is hardly the way to get rich.

" are a taxi company with several rent seekers giving you fares for a cut."

You seem unaware that Uber has been setting records for corporate losses:

Uber is using investor cash to subsidize passengers and drivers -- the polar opposite of 'rent seeking'.

The big question is, why does Uber's automated service dispatch service need to be so costly?

My neighbor has delivered 3000+ uber rides as a driver. He is delivering the service at a competitive price, and it is a side job, the primary job is operating a small business. From my neighbor's perspective, Uber is a ratings agency, that will fire him if his feedback goes too low, and they also have his back if a passenger pukes in the back seat, he will get the cleaning reimbursed, Uber will get the money from the customer if needed. Other than that, they are not subsidizing him. My neighbor is financially savvy, running a small business, it does not seem that he is subsidizing anything with excess car depreciation.

I can see that uber is burning money, however, I cannot see how drivers and passengers are being subsidized, Uber takes 20 percent of the fare off the top, there is no reason why the automated dispatch service needs to cost more. The software development might have been overly expensive, however, the software is working, and is now a sunk cost.

Subsidy is maybe not the perfect word, but the fact is Uber operates with staggering ongoing losses, and those are funded by investors. Presumably to operate with a small profit they would have to raise prices, but then they risk losing customers (one of their main draws is being cheaper than a standard cab). They seem to want to burn investor cash to take share all over the world, to get ubiquitous enough that they can eventually raise prices to be profitable.

This is similar to the Amazon business model, but Uber should realize that Amazon skipped the raising prices step and now makes tons of profit from Amazon Web Services, which truly does subsidize their retail business. So unless Uber starts web hosting (or cuts cost by eliminating drivers) they may have problems. They aren't the only game in town the way Amazon kinda is.

Reply to Msg,

Uber is a company that is essentially a many billions of dollars wager on at least one of two things happening:

1. De facto Short term open borders. Illegal immigrants with licenses, zero enforcement, sanctuary cities in the high value areas

2. Automated vehicles

They need to drastically reduce their labor costs to keep this going. Short term they NEED a Democrat in the White House to EO amnesty and declare de facto open borders, complete with states being mandated to license illegals.

Personally I hope they win, only way to get cheap Uber fares is to import people.

Uber is a bet on one thing only: that they can wrap up cumulative advantage, worldwide, before the money runs out.

Every time you "Uber" when you land at a random airport, because you know the drivers are on Uber, they win a little bit of that bet.

It might seem tenuous, but a global cumulative advantage is hard to beat. Ask Facebook.

My guess is that Uber's expenses mostly are (a) marketing and (b) research into automated vehicles.

Since more of my friends are AI reserachers than professional drivers, I am hoping that (b) is a growth sector. But it would be very interesting to see how important (a) is to the individual drivers. Maybe if Uber's marketing machine didn't exist, they would be absorbed back into the taxi industry (or whatever else they get into if they don't want to be taxi drivers).

Uber is just using the money in pursuit of a strategy called "Get Big Fast," pioneered by Jeff Bezos. If you can use investors' cash to establish a quasi-monopoly market position, you should. People already refer to Uber as the generic name for ride-sharing, the way they used to call copiers Xerox machines. If you are an Uber investor, this is what you want.

Good links!
#5: At first I thought Cataluna was more of a Brexit situation but the more I read about it, the more it seems to be a Scotland situation. That is, old grudges that refuse to die and don't follow any reason or logic.

#7: I have no hopes of really understanding what happened there. If it was indeed some sort of novel weapon, our government will never tells us because that would admit the other side has the upper hand. If it was a known weapon, our government will never tell us out of shame. If it was just some sort of mass hysteria, again we would never admit it out of shame.

#8: Well, it's all about expectations I think. When you are a kid there's always a lot ahead of you so you can be an optimist. Once you are older, you have already gone through your major defeats so there's a lot fewer unknowns ahead of you. At the end of the day, the main problem is that our society decided that stress is something we should be afraid of.

2. The Nordics are basically English speaking countries, which gives them a pretty big leg up over other European countries in any global industry. That said, "Sweden's GDP has outperformed _____ since the mid 1990s" is cherrypicking.

does stress reduce after age 50? personally my experience (i'm 53) is yes. the whole reason is idgaf. i've lost interest in my own achievements. i've lost interest in telling other people how to treat me, as long as they aren't trying to kill me it makes very little difference. i'm paying much more attention to what's going on around me, but not ascribing it as positive or negative.

Well put, but let me add one more positive event. The kids leave the house and your life is not driven by their needs.

5- "redistribution of public funds is controlled by the central government"

The only sentence that explains what's happening in Spain. Imagine if the state of Florida had to get approval from Washington for interstate 4 renovations. Yet the stubborn central government refuses to negotiate on this point. You are not autonomous if you don't control your own finances.

The referendum is an act of desperation at this refusal- which has been going on for the last 10 years or so.

#2 so the short answer is deregulation. Duh. And judging from the Swedish Competition Agency's performance, Sweden's antitrust environment is decidedly more balanced and less gratuitously anti-business than that of the allegedly deregulated USA: The single factor underlying Sweden's policy successes is likely its academic environment which exhibits much less doctrinaire leftism than the US academy.

#3 was interesting and is definitely something I've noticed as well. Back when I was in different stages of my education, I definitely got a Dilbert-esque view of the business world conveyed to me, in which nepotism, pointless "office politics," incompetent managers, and buffoonish, overpaid CEOs held sway everywhere, while the low level people did all the work, were unrecognized for their competence, and the Peter Principle ruled all. When I actually got out into the working world, I found, in my experience that was all at a minimum very exaggerated. Because of my job I have also met a ton of C-suite managers of companies in different industries from all around the world. They're generally not morons or rapacious psychopaths (though some, like Jamie Dimon, play a "regular guy" act on TV, in my opinion). I work in finance so feel free to discount my comments as biased accordingly.

Of course there is still a huge amount of luck involved in these things, and I'm not trying to dogmatically insist that the market outcome is "fair" in a normative sense.

The one thing I think is missing from Yudkowsky's piece is the fact that most jobs at the high level are actually sales jobs, and this throws a lot of people's "merit" radar off. For example it's known that if you want to be a successful lawyer at one of these hot shot firms and make partner, you need to be bringing in business. It's not enough to just "be a great lawyer." So someone who brings in business but is a mediocre attorney relative to his associate class can still be more valuable to the firm. CEOs and CFOs are in some sense salesmen, selling the company's prospects to investors to get a nice low WACC. I sometimes joke that CFOs don't do anything and just sit around until it's time to issue more bonds. Engineers make diddly-squat despite their intelligence and talent because they're not tapped into sales/where the money's at and are thus "grunts."


Good point about them being sales jobs. Salesmen do tend to have lots of charisma


You get it.

-- , I definitely got a Dilbert-esque view of the business world conveyed to me, in which nepotism, pointless “office politics,” incompetent managers, and buffoonish, overpaid CEOs held sway everywhere, while the low level people did all the work, were unrecognized for their competence, and the Peter Principle ruled all. When I actually got out into the working world, I found, in my experience that was all at a minimum very exaggerated. --

Had you chosen a career in entertainment, you may have had a very different experience. The fact that so many people get their understanding of corporate behavior from the entertainment world seems to explain why the caricature you describe is so ubiquitous.

This is a evenhanded comment, and I think it demonstrates the ignorance of Eliezer. If I could have one eponymous law it would be, "The closer to the point of transaction you are, the more powerful you are." This holds for consulting, where I learned this rule, but also in law, medicine, finance etc. Academia is no exception. If you can make it rain grant money, you are a made man, so to speak. Sales is THE skill to have.

"CEOs and CFOs are in some sense salesmen, selling the company’s prospects to investors to get a nice low WACC."

It would seem that the same...and maybe much of what Yudkowsky described...could be applied to politicians. So, are politicians at the top level actually "genuinely competent" contrary to a "Dilbert-esque view"?

#5 "Catalonia has never been an independent state. It was part of the Kingdom of Aragon when Aragon joined the Kingdom of Castile in the 15th century." As usual the sirens of supranationalism can't get their stories straight. Catalonia (then known as the County of Barcelona) was joined to the House of Aragon in 1150 through the marriage of the Princess of Aragon Petronilla and the Count of Barcelona Ramon Berenguer IV; their son Alfonso II inherited all territories in the House of Aragon and the House of Barcelona. Since then a Catalan Republic has been proclaimed four times: In 1641, by Pau Claris; In 1873, by Baldomer Lostau[ as the "Catalan State,"; in 1931, by Francesc Macià as the "Catalan Republic within the Iberian Federation"; and in 1934, by Lluís Companys as the "Catalan State within the Spanish Federal Republic." Wasn't Tyler singing Franco's praises a while back? All of a piece.

Yes, and moreover the article makes the same big mistake two times in a row: confusing "having the same king" with "being the same country". Again, it is the same mistake as saying that Canada or Barbados or New Zealand of 2017 are not independent from England and from each other because they have the same queen. Just plainly ridiculous.

When Catalonia was joined to the House of Aragon in 1150, it kept its separate cortes, state apparatus, law and customs, etc.

And again, when Ferdinand married Isabella at the end of the 15th century, he stayed king of Aragon and she Queen of Castile -- even when she died, Ferdinand "the old Catalan" as he was nicknamed didn't become king of Castile, he just was a disrespected regent until his grand-son Charles V came of age and became king. And Charles V was not King of Spain, including Catalonia. He was king of Castile, and of Aragon, and Duke of Barcelona, and of Burgundy, and of Flanders and king of Austria (at first, then he gave this title to his brother) and Holy Roman Emperor. During his reign,
Catalonia and Castile (and Flanders, and Austria, etc.) stayed two separate states, with separate laws, judiciary, tax systems, cortes, councils, etc. And the same was true while the Habsburg reigned over Spain, until the Spanish Succession War.

Only in 1716, when the new king Philippe V (or Felipe V), a Bourbon, grand-son of Louis XIV of France, and ancestor of the current king Felipe VI took power than Catalonia finally joint the kingdom of Castile.

So El Pais is as ignorant of the history of Spain as Le Monde may be of the history of France. A Frequent problem in Europe: low IQ, ill-educated journalists... Or perhaps, more simply, it is just bad faith.


Although never its own state, Catalonia (County of Barcelona) was an autonomous self-governing entity its entire history until Barcelona fell in 1714 to Castilian troops and their allies (annexation was formalized in 1716). Spain has incompetently tried to Castilianize Catalonia ever since. Franco was the most successful by facilitating the importation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants to Catalonia from all over Spain particularly the south. Most of these folks will never support independence no matter how bad Madrid treats Catalonia. Considering that actual ethnic Catalans are a minority in Catalonia, i'm amazed that the Catalan language, cultural identity and historical narrative is as strong as it is.

Why wouldn't it be strong? It's pretty much the only language used to teach in local schools, and good luck trying to teach there if you don't pass unofficial political barriers. Teachers will shout at kids that speak Spanish to each other on recess. Children of national policemen were shamed in classes the week after: The entire school system is a propaganda machine for Catalonia as a superior nation, not unlike what some schools do in the US.

That's the darkest part of the problem facing those that don't want independence: Imagine that somehow the current Catalonian government is kicked out of office: Purging pro-independence teachers and administrators, the real engine of this whole thing, is not going to look good, and it's hard to do quietly, like the Catalonian government managed to do, in the opposite direction, in the 90s. As long as school is a propaganda machine, it's all just kicking the can down the road. It's the economic circle of the people publishing the crazy schoolbooks, the schools buying said books, the administrators making sure that the teachers are happy teaching that nobody there is Spanish, and the teachers that will happily spouting those things, that launched all of this in the first place.

Instead of seeing it like an ideology, imagine it all as occupational licensing, except for catalonian independentism: It's very difficult to break unless the state comes and says 'This is not a requirement, and it can't be a requirement'. You can find people warning about this in newspapers back when the whole idea of the Catalonian Nation was strengthening, and the Spanish government was weak enough they traded stabilty in congress in exchange for looking away when Catalonia pushed for this. It makes if even more funny when now Aznar, Prime Minister at the time, comes in and says that the right idea is to declare the failure to listen to the constitutional law as worth declaring Catalonian's government to be null and void. This whole thing wouldn't have happened if he hadn't stoked the fire decades ago.

Now all banks of any size are moving out of catalonia, looking for judicial safety, American companies send memos to their workers saying that they should avoid travel to Catalonia just like they do to North Korea, and ultimately everybody loses. It's tragic if you ask me.

But then, if a true referendum was organized about independence in Catalonia, what would be the result?
I sincerely do not know. All Catalans I know (they are mathematicians, a species which prefers to stay away from politics in general) are fiercely pro-independence, but then it I can't generalize from a handful of people. There are indications than in a true referendum, pro-independence people would be in minority. And also, if really the school is the efficient propaganda machine for nationalism and independence you describe, time is running against Spain, who should organize a referendum now, while there is still a chance "remain" wins.

2. Absolutely healthcare. I see Obamacare and Universal Healthcare as being a huge gift to entrepreneurs, who truly are risking it a lot. At the very least, if they can worry less about the costs of getting sick and healthcare, they're much more likely to sake a claim on their own.

But most of western Europe has decent healthcare, backed up by the government. Why is Sweden so exceptional?

Bait and switch. Entrepreneurs could buy a catastrophic coverage plan. Until Obamacare.

This is hilariously wrong. Obamacare is a subsidy from the middle class to the idle class. Most of the law is the Medicaid expansion, transferring dollars from middle class people who work to people who prefer leisure.

But hey, you can work 0 hours a week and collect food stamps, section 8, Medicaid, and earn money under the table now. So a civil society victory.

6. Yes, stress does decline in the 50s, but then it goes back up in the 60s; I don't know about the 70s since I'm not there yet. Personally, I prefer the 40s: it's an age when one has enough experience to have confidence in one's business/profession, but still young enough to have hair and a flat belly and enough money to appeal to women/men from a younger generation.

The 40s seems to be the decade of life when depression is at its worse for those prone to it.

#3: I'm sure about the "more alive" part. I've known plenty of dumb people who were very much alive. Loud, obnoxious, won't shut up, etc. The rest, he is, of course, correct about. Did it really take him until recently to figure this out, though? I think I had this figured out like three weeks into my first real job. "Oh, wow, the people running this company really are pretty darn smart and knowledgeable. Hey, the people who run our clients' businesses seem really smart and effective, too." I'm not sure what exactly is "hideously unfair" about this situation. That doesn't seem like a very rational thing to say in the circumstances. Shouldn't we want to reward merit? Isn't Cletus better off in a world where Cletus doesn't have the power to crash important institutions and organizations?

Whoops, I meant "I'm NOT sure" about the more alive part.

"I think I had this figured out like three weeks into my first real job."

Has Eliezer Yudkowsky ever had a real job?

The Sweden article is a good one and pretty much in accord with my experience doing business there. How much of the Swedish experience is relevant to the US is questionable though. Swedes are different from Americans -- e.g. much greater sense of public responsibility, less willing to take advantage of "free" stuff funded by their fellow citizens. Whether this aspect of Sweden changes because of the large scale immigration will be interesting to watch.

I recommend reading The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. It's a dystopian novel for the late-middle-aged Swede. It's so very bizarre at times, because a lot of the little decisions people make feel so foreign to me and my American experience. For example, doctors advising, "How could you think to do that? People will think you're strange," and that kind of advice actually working.

Wow. Eliezer is invited to meet some CEOs in his field and discovers that they are actually pretty smart. This is shocking and astounding news.

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