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Comment Roundup II

September 16th, 2016
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As I wrote last time, sometimes I make comments on Facebook or elsewhere that, back when I had more time, I would have expanded into full blog posts. Since I don't seem to be getting around to that so much anymore I'm trying just collecting them here.

Responding to a blog post extending the idea of gentrification to online communities:

A major reason gentrification of neighborhoods happens is because of limitations on housing growth. With more ability to build housing you'd see less of rich people coming into poor areas and more of them building new fancy stuff in the places that are already not poor. And there's competition for limited space, with it allocated by a market that says it goes to whoever can pay the most.

What I'm confused about with online community gentrification is that there's unlimited space. If you want a crude forum where you can make gay jokes and be hostile to each other, all you need is someone who wants to run a forum like that and doesn't want to clean it up to attract more socially respectable people. Like, is anyone trying to change 4chan?

Maybe part of what's going on is social realignment. You have:

  [mainstream-people] [socially-competent-nerds abrasive-nerds]
And then the mainstream culture decides nerds are ok as long as they are good enough at interacting pleasantly, and you get:
  [mainstream-people socially-competent-nerds] [abrasive-nerds]
So it's not that the abrasive or socially incompetent nerds have nowhere to go, but that their communities are a lot less enjoyable without the socially competent nerds?

Maybe it's kind of like brain drain? Where people are unhappy when the most talented people in their community gain the option to leave because when they take it their initial community is much worse off than before?

In a discussion about a local bowling alley that's planned to be replaced by housing

That's the bowling alley we would go to as a kid, so I'm kind of sad. But I'm more sad about seeing friends have to move away because of rising rents, so I'm glad we're going to get more housing.

It doesn't bother me that these are going to be "luxury" units. Right now there's a ton of people renovating and condoizing formerly cheap apartments into fancy ones. Building new luxury housing makes that process less profitable, so it helps keep the reasonably priced housing we currently have from disappearing.

In general, when you build new units, people move into them from elsewhere, freeing up their previous units for others. So I'm glad when the housing stock expands, whether the new units are fancy or cheap.

(Economists call this 'filtering', and it's how we have most of our currently cheap housing. Most of our cheap housing was fancy when new, or at least fancier than it is now.)

In a discussion on whether we should have maximum salaries:

In general, price ceilings have two consequences:

  • Deadweight loss: there are things people would have been willing to do, that would benefit others, but on the margin fewer do it because it's not worth it. For example, maybe slightly fewer people start businesses, because the potential gains have been lowered from billions of dollars to a few hundred thousand but the work involved hasn't changed. More potential entrepreneurs go for jobs that pay salaries instead. This is worse than it sounds, because entrepreneurs probably only capture a very small fraction of the value they create.
  • Workarounds: when people can't compete on salary they compete in other ways. Cushy offices, free laundry, free food, free housing, free private education for your kids, etc.
Responding to a blog post arguing for a higher minimum wage:

They don't actually address the economic argument that a higher minimum wage would lead employers to find ways to employ fewer people, mostly through automation.

I'm fine with redistributing wealth, in favor of it, but a high national minimum wage is going to hurt people in low cost of living areas. In fact, a high minimum wage isn't enough, regardless, because automation is going to continue to get better and better. We need to start testing UBI.

(There are other problems with the piece like "I sock my extra money away in savings, where it doesn't do the country much good" ignoring that their savings are invested, but I think the economic effect of a higher minimum wage is our main disagreement.)

On my "Green Eggs and Ham is creepy" post:

Alternate titles for children's books:

  • Green Eggs and Dubious Consent Practices
  • Rainbow Fish and Coerced Oversharing
  • Mike Mulligan and his Obsolete Shovel
  • Make Way for Inefficient Allocation of Police Resources
  • The Cat in the Home Invasion
  • Miss Rumphius Propagates Invasive Species
Responding to a blog post arguing that in general we default-believe reports of crimes, and we shouldn't treat reports of rape differently:

If someone says they've been robbed by a stranger (to you) vs raped or abused by a stranger (to you), those seem to me like they would both tend to be default-belived. On the other hand, if the attacker is a person in your social circle, then I would expect a more mixed reaction. Including analogues to the typical rape-disbelief bits: "Mark doesn't seem like the kind of guy who would do that", "Were you clear about whether you were lending it to him or giving it to him", wanting to know details so they can judge for themself, etc.

Like, it seems like it's not rape reports getting a special epistemic status, but instead most rapes being by people known to the victim and most robberies being by strangers to them. Which means if you hear about a rape happening to a friend you probably know the person who did it, but not if you hear about a robbery happening to them.

(There are certainly circles where people reporting rape by a stranger aren't belived by default but people reporting robbery by a stranger are, which includes many media reports. I'm trying to think about how people I know would react, though.)

In a discussion on why you wouldn't want a security update to make a server start throwing errors on bad input it previously ignored:

Let's say you're using a cache server as a best-effort cache, and you take advantage of its ability to store complicated data structures. Your client implementation has a small bug with one of them, and ~1% of the time it sends something to the server that's not to spec. Right now, the server returns an error for that specific request, but doesn't drop the connection and continues processing later requests on the connection. You know about the errors, but they're not worth fixing.

Now the cache server has a security update, so you apply it right away. But now when it gets your invalid command it not only returns an error but it drops the connection. Your client doesn't handle this well, and now your caching is fully broken and your server falls over from the load.

In a discussion on whether there's room to build new cities:

Spend some time in satellite-view in a mapping program and you'll see that there are huge areas of farmland that could be cities. There's a lot of space on the planet. A new city would be much denser than the suburban and exurban sprawl that currently fills our demand for new housing, and so would end up in taking much less farmland than continuing along the current path.

(And the amount of farmland we're talking about, both for new cities and for sprawl, is small as a fraction of total farmland.)

(Apparently I spend a lot of time arguing about economics.)

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