Can I interest you in some virtue ethics?


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re: Caroline's review of Barbarians at the Gate, it seems clear that this list:

- they all have fiduciary duties

- ???

- shareholder value is maximised

is riffing off the 1. step one 2. step two 3. ??? 4. profit meme, where the reader is not expecting the profit to ever exist. So I think she agrees with your reading!

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Nov 17, 2022·edited Nov 17, 2022

coin flip forever from Caroline:

she isn't specific, but based on a parallel example from SBF, I suppose she's talking about positive EV coin flip. SBF example read 75% win 25% loss or subpar EV.

this isn't crazy

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Great Summary! Thank you for putting this together.

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re: "The decline in crypto prices of ~20% does indeed seem too low to me. "

That part confused me, is that decline just "crypto vibes = bad" -> 20% drop? Obviously I can see why FTT or Serum would drop, but why would some unrelated token drop as well? Why would, to pick a non-random example, BNB drop too?

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Would add https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/rJ4cG9xcKPsqJmLTv/deontology-is-not-the-solution to your list of good takes.

"To be sure, it seems as though Bankman-Fried didn’t take side-constraints particularly seriously. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that he would have done any better had he taken them seriously. Intending to obey deontological constraints is no more a guarantee that you will obey them than intending to maximise utility is a guarantee that you will maximise utility. What’s needed is a more systematic analysis of how to act in situations of power, potentially including proposals for reform at the institutional level—not simplistic rules drawn from intuition."

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" ‘heroes put the entire group, many innocent people, ‘the city,’ planet Earth or even the whole damn universe or multiverse in grave danger to save any main character because That’s What Heroes Do’ is ubiquitous in our fantasy media...it is rather mind-bogglingly awful. That kind of thinking needs to be widely condemned."

I get what you're saying. But didn't you also say earlier in this article

"Do not violate deontology for utilitarian ends. Seriously. Stop. Don’t do it."

And while as You say, Game Theory means not bargaining with hostage takers, the above formulation seems like you would be ok with the whole risking the city/world/multiverse scenario If the context were a bit different?

"Batman, this civilian has been turned into a living sun, If You don't kill her she will emit 10,000,000 degree heat and kill countless people. What do you say to that, Batman?"

"I won't kill her. Do not violate deontology for utilitarian ends. Seriously. Stop. Don’t do it."

You might say this is a heightened bizarre scenario totally divorced from reality and so the logic beneath it can't teach us anything. But then, if you're allowed to logically analyze one set of bizarre comic book scenarios, you're allowed to logically analyze another, no?

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Small thing: Not 100% certain, but I don't think "$5bb" is accepted notation. "$5mm" exists because it's m x m, where m = 1000. So, 5bb would be a 5 trillion or 5 quintillion, by analogy.

Anyway, I think you'd just write "$5b" or "$5B".

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Re “Notice this VC ready to invest in SBF again if he asked”: this guy doesn't seem like a VC at all; if he is, he's definitely not anything like a top Silicon Valley VC. His Twitter bio says: “Chairman of O’Shares and Beanstox, CNBC Contributor,4 X Emmy Shark Tank's Mr. Wonderful, wine maker, watch, crypto & guitar guy, photographer & Chef”

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> I do find his ‘the biggest thing you actually buy is a car’ attitude odd given the existence of houses.

I'm guessing you don't own a house.

As I tweeted at the time, a house is more of a strategy than a possession. Once you have a mortgage, especially one close to your maximum, it dominates ALL your financial decision making. It may seem like a house doesn't fit Rao's narrative but that's mainly because the bureaucracy that manages your home ownership is "you and your spouse".

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I'm interested in your flow of "long version", "short version", "shortest version." I would've thought it was better to go the other way so you can build up an incrementally more detailed mental model. Like a progressive jpeg. Do you know something I don't?

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Zvi, what is your advice to a software engineer in the AI compiler/infrastructure space? Not directly working on improving ML capabilities, but building tools for it. Is it possible to do anything good from within or only option is to get out?

Thanks for all your work, particularly the covid coverage. Love the blog.

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I find it weird that still after all this time, SBF basically being a partisan hack, with donating to the Democrats being literally his main 'altruistic' cause, is still apaprently fine with absolutely everybody remotely related to the EA movement. Like, donationg millions to a party that recieved financial and other support from a majority of the largest corporations, all of the most prestigious universities and a majority of newspapers etc when you're being used as almost the face of EA or earning to give (80,000 hours literally listed him first on their 'About Us' page of people whose stories and support they are 'proud' of and mentioned his donations to the Democrats as main (only?) example of his "altruism").

Maybe you can make some sort of case for keeping Repubicans out of power truly being of supreme importance, but I think that that is not only kind of dumb, but also very distasteful for EA orgs and certainly makes me want to have nothing to do with them/actively cheer for their failure. And if nothing else, it strikes me as extremely ineffective altruism. Even being a huge donor, what material impact on elections would SBF reasonably have expected to have (vs other "altruism" options)?

It would have been one thing if these orgs just pinched their noses and accepted it for the sake of the cash, but it's now clear that they at least had no problem with it, and probably thought it was a good thing. Rob Wilbun etc blocking anyone on twitter who disputes the left wing narratives espoused in his tweets (e.g. basically being a heritability denier) certainly supports this, which is all the more reason these orgs losing funding should be considered a truly wonderful thing.

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Hey @zvi, Have you written about what the possible use cases for crypto? (I have some sense from Vitalik, but frankly I only understand about 60% of what V writes) I know block chain has uses, but crypto itself (as in tokens on its own blockchain) still seems limited, so would be interested in what you might be seeing? Also, do you agree on the some of the current thinking that crypto has turned out to be "centralising" whereas AI (eg Stable Diffusion) has turned out to be decentralising?

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re: "hot takes on ethics", I wish everyone would take more care to distinguish ethical theory and practice. See: https://rychappell.substack.com/p/ethical-theory-and-practice

Utilitarianism is an ethical theory, so it's something close to a category error to say that "something is deeply wrong with utilitarianism in practice." Maybe you mean that something is deeply wrong with how some people attempt to implement utilitarianism in practice. This makes clearer that the problem is with the people, and how they were thinking about the theory. There are better ways of thinking about it available (which are in fact central to the utilitarian philosophical tradition). I offer an outline (with academic citations) here: https://rychappell.substack.com/p/naive-vs-prudent-utilitarianism

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I think the whole enterprise was a failure to incorporate very well known reasons to doubt FTX and SBF specifically. The vast majority of the financial world did not invest in FTX or crypto. Instead of taking that signal and updating on how good FTX was (not very), it appears that pro-crypto-investment individuals artificially cut off the other world of finance and only considered pro-crypto-investment perspectives. Let's say 90% of the financial markets are in a clear "crypto is dangerous and has no underlying value, don't buy this" and the other 10% is somewhere between willing to try it out and willing to invest heavily in it. If that 10% is wise, they'll keep in mind that 90% of the world will not even touch this stuff at all, let alone go long on it. What seems to have actually happened was for the 10% to say something like "Those [90%] don't understand crypto, I'll look at my peers in the know and recalibrate with them as a baseline" and suddenly those buying small amounts of crypto look like conservative investors. If you are willing to be a bit more risky than the most conservative, you'll stake a decent amount of your money on crypto, and still feel like you're only moderately risky. This is an obvious failure mode from the outside perspective. It's not surprising that once people increase their Overton Window on investment risk (at least when crypto is involved), they'll be more willing to overlook pretty obvious red flags. I mean, BC has had super obvious red flags from the start, but it's held value pretty well and made some people a lot of money (unfortunately, on the backs of people pumping money in later). So people tend to ignore the red flags. But can anyone really say that during a bad economic downturn (2008 certainly, let alone 1929) that BC will not lose a ton of value and leave people over-leveraged in it to go broke?

Then you find out things like FTX/Alameda not having complete lists of all of their *bank accounts* or even their *employees* and *employee compensation* and the whole thing just looks insane.

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