Are All Actions Impermissible Under Kantian Deontology?

Epistemic status: I don’t really understand Kantian deontology.

Summary: According to the rules of Kantian deontology, an action must be impermissible if it has any probability of resulting in an impermissible outcome. But all actions have some probability of resulting in such an outcome. Therefore, all actions are impermissible.

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New Page: Convert Credences into a Bet

https://mdickens.me/credence-bet/

In response to a Facebook post, I created a page to make it easy to make bets with people. If two people disagree about a claim and they want to bet on it, they can use this form to calculate how much money each person should bet. Each person should input their best estimate of the probability of the claim being true, and the form will tell them how much to bet. The form ensures that the bet will be fair for both participants–they both expect to win the same amount of money.

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What Are the Best TV Shows (According to IMDb Episode Ratings)?

Recently, I was browsing IMDb’s list of top-rated TV shows:

According to IMDb ratings, Planet Earth II is the second-best TV show of all time, with 9.5 stars out of 10. But if you look at the ratings of each individual episode, they range from 6.8 to 7.91:

In general, the rating of a TV show usually differs from the average rating of that show’s episodes. What does the list of top TV shows look like if we sort by average episode rating instead of show rating? Perhaps voters have different motivations when they’re rating shows than when they’re rating individual episodes, and it could be interesting to see how the ratings differ.

So I downloaded the IMDb public database to find out2.

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High School Science Experiments

Experiments are a critical part of science—perhaps even the central feature. But middle school and high school science experiments don’t teach students how experiments are supposed to work.

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How Can Donors Incentivize Good Predictions on Important but Unpopular Topics?

Altruists often would like to get good predictions on questions that don’t necessarily have great market significance. For example:

  • Will a replication of a study of cash transfers show similar results?
  • How much money will GiveWell move in the next five years?
  • If cultured meat were price-competitive, what percent of consumers would prefer to buy it over conventional meat?

If a donor would like to give money to help make better predictions, how can they do that?

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Should Global Poverty Donors Give Now or Later?

Update 2020-01-04: This essay contains a number of important mistakes. See Correction on Giving Now vs. Later.

Disclaimer: I am not an investment advisor and nothing in this essay serves as investment advice.

Introduction

Robin Hanson: If More Now, Less Later

The rate of return on investment historically has been higher than the growth rate–or, as they say, r > g. If you save your money to donate later, you can earn enough interest on it that you eventually have the funds to donate a greater amount. Because r > g, you should invest your money for as long as you can before donating1–or so the argument goes.

Traditionally, we’d apply a discount rate of g to future donations, because that’s the rate at which people get richer and therefore the rate at which money becomes less valuable for them. But this ignores some important factors that affect how much we should discount future donations, and we can create a much more detailed estimate. This essay will explore that in detail. Exactly what factors determine the investment rate of return and the discount rate on poverty alleviation? Can we gain any information about which is likely greater?

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Why Do Small Donors Give Now, But Large Donors Give Later?

Some people have observed that small and large donors follow different giving patterns. Small donors who give out of their salary—that is, most people—tend to donate money more or less as soon as they earn it (usually within a year). Large donors—e.g., extremely wealthy people and foundations—tend to slowly distribute their money and hold on to most of it1. For example, large foundations typically donate little more than the legally required 5% of assets each year. Why do they behave differently?

I don’t believe this difference is surprising, and actually it’s not really even a difference.

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Where Some People Donated in 2017

This is a collection of writings on where people are donating. It only includes writings that I am aware exist (obviously) and that are written by effectiveness-minded people.

My descriptions are paraphrased from the linked writings as much as possible. The writing in this post includes combinations of my own and the linked writers’ words. My summaries often do not do the original writers justice, so I recommend reading all of the linked articles if you are interested.

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Newcomb's Problem and Efficient Markets

Summary: The stock market can be modeled as Omega in Newcomb’s problem. On average, an asset will only outperform if the market predicts that you won’t buy it. So you cannot say “if I had bought that, I would have made a lot of money”, just as in Newcomb’s problem you can’t say “if I had taken both boxes, I would have gotten more money than if I only took one”.

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