Comment author: Halstead 03 January 2018 03:19:04PM 0 points [-]

relative to charging prices where demand is in excess of supply

Comment author: ThomasSittler 08 January 2018 12:25:07PM 0 points [-]

for the reasons i explained above, i think many economists believe this is true (in many situations). But they don't use the argument you attribute to them to do so.

Comment author: RyanCarey 29 December 2017 12:20:20AM 12 points [-]

Re page 9, I think the talk of a civilization maintaining exponential growth is unconvincing. The growth rate of a civilization should ultimately be bounded cubically (your civ grows outward like a sphere), whereas the risk is exponential. Exponentials in general defeat polynomials, giving finite EV in the limit of t, regardless of the parameters.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 04 January 2018 09:41:47PM 0 points [-]

FYI I ended up deciding to keep exponential growth in the main model, but I added a footnote discussing what happens in the limit of t. Thanks! :)

Comment author: JanBrauner 03 January 2018 04:50:24PM 4 points [-]

You write: "In this discussion, there are two considerations that might at first have ap- peared to be crucial, but turn out to look less important. The first such consid- eration is whether existence is in general good or bad, `a la Benatar (2008). If existence really should turn out to be a harm, sufficiently unbiased descendants would plausibly be able to end it. This is the option value argument. In turn, option value itself might appear to be a decisive argument against doing some- thing so irreversible as ending humanity: we should temporise, and delegate this decision to our descendants. But not everyone enjoys option value, and those who suffer are relatively less likely to do so. If our descendants are selfish, and find it advantageous to allow the suffering of powerless beings, we may not wish to give them option value. If our descendants are altruistic, we do want civilisation to continue, but for reasons that are more general than option value."

Since the option value argument is not very strong, it seems to be a very important consideration "whether existence in general is good or bad" - or, less dichotomous, where the threshold for a life worth living lies. Space colonization means more (sentient) beings. If our descendants are altruistic (or have values that we, upon reflection, would endorse), everything is fine anyway. If our descendants are selfish, and the threshold for a life worth living is fairly low, then not much harm will be done (as long as they don't actively value causing harm, which seems unlikely). If they are selfish and the threshold is fairly high - i.e. a lot of things in a life have to go right in order to make the life worth living - then most powerless beings will probably have bad lives, possibly rendering overall utility negative.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 04 January 2018 09:37:01PM *  2 points [-]

Thanks, excellent comment! :)

If our descendants are selfish, and the threshold for a life worth living is fairly low, then not much harm will be done (as long as they don't actively value causing harm, which seems unlikely).

They needn't actively value causing harm, suffice it that there be instrumental benefits to causing harm. e.g. factory farming today is the result of indifference, not cruelty.

I do agree that where the threshold lies becomes important if the threshold is likely to be close to the level of well-being that powerless beings enjoy. (e.g. I'm pretty confident that the majority of farmed animals today are pretty far below that threshold, but reasonable people could disagree.) I guess I should have made that clearer when I cite Benatar.

Comment author: Halstead 03 January 2018 02:48:56PM *  0 points [-]

but people in economics do make the argument that charging prices such that supply and demand are in equilibrium improves allocative efficiency.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 03 January 2018 02:58:54PM 0 points [-]

Relative to what?

Comment author: Halstead 03 January 2018 12:14:27PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, yes I agree with all of that. My post was a critique of one argument for market prices, not an argument against market prices.

Comment author: ThomasSittler 03 January 2018 02:27:38PM 1 point [-]

I think there's some misunderstanding going on. The argument you critique is: "In a market, goods go to those with the highest willingness to pay. Hence the resulting allocation is socially optimal (according to some social welfare function)". I don't think anyone in economics makes that argument. The only claim is that allocations that result from a market are Pareto efficient (under some strong assumptions, which I'm sure you're familiar with. See the first fundamental theorem of welfare economics). Again, the real question is: if not markets, then what?

Comment author: ThomasSittler 03 January 2018 07:44:18AM *  1 point [-]

It's generally agreed that Pareto efficiency is a very weak criterion; for any economy, there are always infinitely many Pareto efficient points and only one (or a few) allocatively efficient point(s). Wikipedia:

It is possible to have Pareto efficiency without allocative efficiency: in such a situation, it is impossible to reallocate resources in such a way that someone gains and no one loses (hence we have Pareto efficiency), yet it would be possible to reallocate in such a way that gainers gain more than losers lose (hence without such a reallocation, we do not have allocative efficiency).

The difficult problem of resource allocation is to get people to reveal their preference honestly. As you point out, someone's willingness to pay is a pretty poor proxy for marginal benefit to the person. But you do need a mechanism for deciding who will get the tickets. Price ceilings (underpricing the tickets) are generally thought to be a very bad way to do so. (In a very simple model, people will queue, or otherwise signal their willingness to "pay", until the costs to them are just as high as the market equilibrium price. Hence in real terms a price ceiling would be like the ticket company selling the tickets at market prices, but then using part of the revenue to pay people to stand in line uselessly. Something like this happened with the oil price ceiling.)

Comment author: ThomasSittler 03 January 2018 07:13:46AM *  4 points [-]

Carl Schulman writes:

Thus in welfare economics it is common to assume that individuals have utility functions that are proportional to the logarithm of income, i.e. with a constant change in utility per doubling of income.

See also Wikipedia on cardinal social welfare functions.

Comment author: Brian_Tomasik 02 January 2018 08:06:59AM 10 points [-]

Or maybe do donate to AMF. :)

Comment author: ThomasSittler 02 January 2018 11:19:01AM *  11 points [-]

Here I go being flippant, without checking first if Brian has an essay on the topic. Reliable way to get burned :)

Comment author: ThomasSittler 01 January 2018 04:03:30PM 1 point [-]

Don't donate to AMF ;)

Comment author: ThomasSittler 30 December 2017 02:13:48PM *  5 points [-]

By now it should be clear that simply following the expected value is not a sufficient response to concerns of cluelessness.

I don't think this follows. Even if we have no information, there are strong theoretical reasons to have sharp credences (ones that are represented by a single number).

There is an existing literature on this. See

R. White: Evidential symmetry and Mushy Credence

S. Bradley: Imprecise probabilities.

A. Elga: subjective probabilities should be sharp

Elga shows that agents who don't have perfectly sharp probabilities are vulnerable to a variant of Dutch Books.

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