Overcoming Bias - RSS Feed

This is a blog on why we believe and do what we do, why we pretend otherwise, how we might do better, and what our descendants might do, if they don't all die.

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How Do Aliens Differ?

Someone recently tweeted the question of if aliens would be more or less benevolent than us. My first reaction was “how could we possibly know how we differ from aliens?” But on reflection, that was hasty, and it seems that we could productively think about how we may differ from aliens. If we are talking about aliens that we might meet soon, one big...

Status Explains Lots

Some complain that I try to explain too much of human behavior via signaling. But the social brain hypothesis and common observations suggest that we quite often do things with an eye to how they will make us look to others. Here’s another big influence on human behavior strongly supported by both theory and common sense: status. While it seems obvious...

‘Long Reflection’ Is Crazy Bad Idea

Some futurist philosophers have recently become enthused by what seems to me a spectacularly bad idea. Here is their idea: Some effective altruists … have argued that, if humanity succeeds in eliminating existential risk or reducing it to acceptable levels, it should not immediately embark on an ambitious and potentially irreversible project (such...

Beware Centralization

Imagine merging three public firms, by making each firm into a division of a single new firm with one new boss. In principle, this new boss has the option to keep these firms running exactly as before. The prior CEOs could become division heads, with complete freedom to run their divisions as before, and paid the same, such as via options on new assets...

To Cut Inequality, Face Hard Choices

In her new book The Right To Sex, Amia Srinivasan mentions my post on “sex redistribution”:  Hanson asked on his blog why progressives are preoccupied with redistributing wealth but not with redistributing sex. He was widely decried—a Slate headline read, “Is Robin Hanson America’s Creepiest Economist?” But Hanson, who is an opponent of wealth redistribution,...

Yay Argument Orientation

Long ago I dove into science studies, which includes history, sociology, and philosophy of science. (Got a U. Chicago M.A. in it in 1983.) I concluded at the time that “science” doesn’t really have a coherent meaning, beyond the many diverse practices of many groups that called themselves “science”. But reflecting on my recent foray into astrophysics...

Elite Biases Make Policy Biases

A 2014 paper predicted U.S. policy changes over four years for 1,779 issues, using the positions of four groups of influencers: business-based interest groups (55), mass-based interest groups (31), median public opinion (6), and elite public opinion (100), i.e. that of people at the 90th percentile of income. (I’ve listed their relative influence in...

Are You Your Best Career Agent?

The [proposed new tax] plans also call for raising the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6% from the current 37%. … result is a top marginal federal income tax rate of 46.4%. … In New York City, the combined top marginal state and city tax rate is 14.8%. So New York City taxpayers who earn more than $5 million a year would face a combined city, state...

The Insular Fertile Future

Fertility (= kids per adult) has been falling worldwide for centuries. It seems to be correlated strongly with societal (not individual) wealth, and mediated by norms transmitted via mass media. World elite culture supports falling fertility by celebrating professional more than parenting accomplishment. Among many rich world elites, fertility has fallen...

Think of the (Alien) Children!

If he was to lose his little finger to-morrow, he would not sleep to-night; but, provided he never saw them, he will snore with the most profound security over the ruin of a hundred millions of his brethren [in China].  Adam Smith Among all the articles on UFOs I’ver read over the last half year, about half of them mentioned the possibility that some...

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