Sunday Links #15

Focus on chickens to knock down the most animal suffering: “Imagine you’re standing in a dining room before a massive table set with 100 plates. Spread among the plates is all the beef, chicken, and pork an average American consumes in one year. Since Americans eat so much meat, the plates are piled high with animal flesh. If you tally up the plates, you’ll find that 44 plates contain chicken, 30 contain beef, and 26 contain pork, since Americans eat slightly more chicken than beef or pork. [But i]n place of the table, picture all the actual, live animals who were farmed and slaughtered to produce the meat you visualized on the plates. Looking upon this crowd of animals, you notice something strange: there’s a sea of chickens and . . . that’s it.”

The costs of crime are higher than people think: “Even if a burglar only causes $400 worth of damage, I’d pay far more than $400 to prevent a burglary — the loss of privacy, the sense of violation, the disruption of my normal order, the distraction of having to deal with police and repairmen and insurance agents, etc. […And] we also have to count the harm to the criminals! Going through lengthy court proceedings, spending years in abusive prisons, having to deal with officious parole officers and the loss of liberty they cause are all serious costs and we can’t wave them away just because they happen to the bad guys.” Plus, the link includes discussion of game theory of crime prevention.

Giving doesn’t have to be hard. Give some money. (Maybe not that much. $50 a year?) Choose carefully where to give. (GiveWell.org?) Earn more. (If it wouldn’t make you gag.) And spend less. Bottom line: “You can push your limits. You can give until it hurts. If you have the energy for that, great. But you don’t have to. You can give where it’s comfortable, and that will still be so much better than ducking away from the question of what you can do to help.”

A really important concept for evaluating whether things are good or not is determining what they “funge” against, or what would occur without them. For example, drone warfare is bad to the degree that the alternative to drone warfare is peace and good to the degree that the alternative to drone warfare is even more deadly forms of warfare. Likewise, minimum wage laws are bad to the degree that they create unemployment, but good to the degree that they create above-minimum-wage jobs.

From Washington Post’s Five Myths series: Five Myths About Taxes. (1) Taxes aren’t some democrat big government scheme, (2) the income tax doesn’t dampen entrepreneurship, (3) the Bush and Reagan tax cuts did not make taxes less progressive, (4) the US corporate tax doesn’t make the US less competitive, and (5) it’s not true that 47% of the US pays no taxes.

Mechanical Turk has some issues when used for surveys. Specifically, the samples there often have large selection bias and have prior exposure to a large degree of study measures. But, then again, all polls can get a little weird from people messing with the results.

“The Top Idea in Your Mind”: “I realized recently that what one thinks about in the shower in the morning is more important than I’d thought. I knew it was a good time to have ideas. Now I’d go further: now I’d say it’s hard to do a really good job on anything you don’t think about in the shower.” Lessons ensue. Also, an indirect argument for the Pomodoro Technique.

Scientism actually makes a lot of sense, I think.

The Cognitive Science of Rationality (For Beginners)

A Defense of the One Percent? I think this analysis is reasonable and worth engaging with as one of the strongest arguments against fighting wealth inequality.

How Google became one of the best places to work.