Right out of hiatus and into the tarpit of map-territory and fuzzy language wrangling.

Crypto is not money... it is a currency, and loan-less "hard money" (like precious metals) are just unworkable (slowing commerce) even if predatory interest rates are a problem. (Is Islamic banking a solution?) In a race between crypto and paper/CBDC, whichever is HODLed the most and speculated the least wins the title of "money" (currency), and lack of governance is not a selling point for crypto in this case. https://apxhard.substack.com/p/why-bitcoin-is-different-from-all https://graymirror.substack.com/p/degenerate-cryptofinance

Utility is not real...because utility is ultimately an abstraction.

(a) Even if we can cerate a general and realistic abstraction, the "calculus" simply does not work as some expect. Linear increases in positive pleasure has log-like diminishing returns (prospect theory), but increasing pain has bottomless risk relative to utility (fragility). And no, pain-killers will not help the situation if the source cause is maintained and "utility" is fudged (Shirky Principle). https://philosophybear.substack.com/p/towards-a-new-methodology-for-evaluating https://taylorpearson.me/ergodicity https://graymirror.substack.com/p/effective-altruism-and-xi-jinping

(b) Just because humans can be envious (TLP), it does not mean that wellbeing cannot be measured and de-coupled from status games and mental grievances (Philosophy Bear). A template: If they say they need X, they most definitely not have X and instead get Y. e.g. X = help for autism, Y = help for anti-social narcissism. https://philosophybear.substack.com/p/a-sketch-of-a-layered-solution-to https://cactus.substack.com/p/ebasf3-some-bad-psychoanalysis https://archive.ph/xgM28 https://eggreport.substack.com/p/quick-thought-on-victimhood-culture

Money is not utility... because human resources are more intangibly valuable (and powerful), and transhuman "hacking of the mind" is not going to work once some part of human dignity gets violated (dignitynomics). If all you have to do to stop the Terminator from destroying you is to give it the finger (Kruel's solution), same goes for "chill" attitudes towards the wealthy and powerful (Gray Mirror thesis). https://graymirror.substack.com/p/there-is-no-ai-risk https://archive.ph/cRhY7 https://archive.ph/W1yuV

When the conceptualization of risk management, concept of currency, and human agency are worse than an average teenager, it is less likely to be mere stupidity, as perverse incentives (or malice) is in full force. "Luxury ideas" are mere status symbols, but "midwit" thinking are of another breed, for example "knowing enough stats to get by" or "everyone is the same". May the bad idea of disguised wealth distribution end, and sincerity reigns. https://bewrong.substack.com/p/what-do-ideas-want https://www.swyx.io/simplicity-rush

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Thinking out loud:

Yes, market cap seems like a great example of something that isn't entirely real, but is real-ish depending on whether people's expectations about a company's future are met, resulting in future trades. And yet it can be real enough that it may have life-changing effects depending on when you trade.

I don't think anyone thinks of Utilions as being traded, though? They are purely a unit of account, not a medium of exchange or a store of value. In this sense your headline is obvious. Is this just a strawman?

But the key is that accounting *depends on* assumptions of value that arise from trades. Accounting units aren't real, they are a theoretical construct used to make assessments. Often they're used to compare things that aren't alike, under the theory that you could trade them, in principle.

To show that this is a mistake people are making, do we need to show that they take their spreadsheets more seriously than they should? Are people actually doing math with Utilions? Are there spreadsheets? I know GiveWell has some, not using Utilions but some other unit like QALYs, and they are careful to warn not to take them too seriously.

I think Utilions are largely used in philosophical discussions. They're a metaphor. Sort of like how many of us talk about our priors without ever writing down any probabilities or ever plugging them into Bayes theorem. (When used that way, a prior is little more than a hunch, but it's dressed up nicely.)

Maybe the bad metaphorical assumption is that the world can be seen as a collection of accounting statements, that there is a big balance sheet in the sky? These are castles in the air, built on the idea of exchanges nobody is making, and that often couldn't be made, even in principle. In the real world, there is no global accounting. Each company has its own books and they don't have to agree. You don't even need to agree with yourself when you make a new spreadsheet. For any big transaction, you can do a new analysis.

There are real decisions to be made, though. For example, you have a pot of charitable funds and need to decide how to spend it.

This blog post seems like an attempt to import more metaphors from the realm of finance and accounting into the realm of philosophy. The ones where accounting goes terribly wrong, where it's used to defraud. That seems valuable.

It seems relevant that Peter Singer started out with an argument based on two theoretical trades: A nice suit ruined to save a drowning child. And then treating children as exchangeable, morally speaking.

Is that a reasonable trade? Not as a parent. Maybe if you're seeing like a state. I do believe that saving more lives is usually better, but theoretical trade in theoretical children can easily be fraudulent.

(Also, people saying you should "shut up and multiply" seems ominous in retrospect.)

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> GiveWell... are careful to warn not to take them too seriously... This blog post seems like an attempt to import more metaphors from the realm of finance and accounting into the realm of philosophy.

The problem is inherently trying to simplify political engineering ("utilitarianism") into a childish mess, and losing some logical rigor AND humanity in the process. Once people stop lounging and take action like these groups, responsibility emerges. Why be half-hearted in teaching theory? Throwing money at pop-sci is grift-y and bad for education.

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