My Faults My Own

Any human’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in humankind.

IN  WHICH Ross Rheingans-Yoo—a sometime economist, artist, trader, expat, poet, EA, and programmer—writes on things of int­erest.

Reading Feed (last update: July 5)

A collection of things that I was glad I read. Views expressed by linked authors are chosen because I think they’re interesting, not because I think they’re correct, unless indicated otherwise.


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Blog: Don't Worry About the Vase | Spoiler-Free Review: Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (plus a Spoilerific section)

Blog: Popehat | The Fourth of July [rerun]

Blog: Tyler Cowen @ Bloomberg View | The NBA’s Reopening Is a Warning Sign for the U.S. Economy — "If so many NBA players are pondering non-participation, how keen do you think those workers — none of whom are millionaire professional athletes — are about returning to the office?"

Comic: SMBC | Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Holism


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Blog: Market Design | Job market technology is diffusing slowly through the armed forces

Blog: Marginal Revolution | Tales from Trinidad barter

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For whom it tolls

Another may be sick too, and sick to death, and this affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him;
but this bell that tells me of his affliction, digs out, and applies that gold to me: if by this consideration of another's danger, I take mine own into contemplation, and so secure myself...


I was talking with a friend the other day, and the topic turned to vaccines. It's expected that the Sinovac and Pfizer vaccines will become available roughly simultaneously in Hong Kong, and so the question was, which vaccine we'd would prefer to receive.

Two topics that came up were safety and efficacy...


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On safety, one can ask whether the Sinovac vaccine should be trusted quite as much as the ones developed in the West. (Hey, one can ask just about anything...)

Well, medically speaking, CoronaVac is a relatively conventional killed-virus vaccine, so if anything my prior would be that it's safer than the mRNA vaccines, just

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Donations 2020

Weird year, right? Still, some things don't change -- I remain committed to using at least 10% of what income I earn to make the universe better.

Here's how I'm thinking about doing that at the end of 2020.


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Back in February 2019, I was randomly (yes, randomly) selected to direct $500k of funds from a donor lottery, and have spent a fair amount of time since then thinking about how to direct those funds most efficiently.

So far, I have recommended grants of $165k to the Good Food Institute in the spring, and just over $200k to a number of Covid-19 interventions in May and June. You can read about those grants here and here.

The work that I did to research and decide on those grants was most of the thinking about effective giving that I did this year; it's been written up elsewhere, and so this post will mostly not cover the same ground. (If you're just looking for new ideas from these posts, see

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2018-19 Donor Lottery Report, pt. 2

This post is cross-posted to the EA Forum, where I expect comments will be much more visible than they are here.

This is the second in a series of reports on my decision-making process and decisions in allocating the $500k funding pool from the January 2019 CEA donor lottery. This writeup on my phase-2 grant recommendations is released simultaneously with my writeup of phase 1, which also provides a broader introduction to my personal background, philosophical foundation, and initial process.

While the decision-making process for phase 1 was largely completed prior to the widespread understanding of the scope of the Covid-19 pandemic, phase-2 grantmaking began in March 2020 and specifically focused on neglected responses to the pandemic. This writeup outlines what I can reconstruct of my process and opinions at the time, and discusses my thoughts on room for further funding.

As with the previous report, this writeup represents independent work and is not coauthored or endorsed by CEA, the organizations or individuals mentioned, or my employer. Grantee organizations

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2018-19 Donor Lottery Report, pt. 1

This post is cross-posted to the EA Forum, where I expect comments will be much more visible than they are here.

The results of the January 2019 CEA donor lottery meant that I was responsible for allocating the donor lottery's $500k funding pool. I entered the donor lottery anonymously, though I now intend to explain my grants and decision-making process publicly; I believe that transparency and open sharing of ideas is a good thing for effective altruism, and I'm glad to be able to contribute to that here.

I expect that my grant recommendations from this funding pool will ultimately be made in three or four phases; this writeup is a preliminary report on phase 1, and is released simultaneously with my writeup on phase 2.

The decision-making process for phase 1 was largely completed prior to February 2020, and phase-1 grants were not substantially affected by consideration of the Covid-19 pandemic (see "Adjusting for unexpected developments", below). Phase-2 decision-making began after February 2020, and phase-2 grants

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Personal opinions on my Harvard courses

A prospective Harvard student wrote the other day asking for advice about CS+Math at Harvard, and (among other questions) asked if I'd share the courses I took to help them compare with their own plans. As always, I was happy to help. I figured it might also be useful to someone else to have an (admittedly idiosyncratic) sample of a Harvard CS+Math schedule on the Internet, so I'm posting it here, too.

note: There really isn't much more here than it says on the tin, so if you're not interested in that, you really can skip this post.


It should be obvious, but no one should take this as a prescription -- not everything was the right choice for me in hindsight, so it's definitely not exactly right for you. At best, it's a data point for people exactly like me, and at worst you should consider reversing the major takeaways.

I also feel compelled to pass along the best advice I received about picking a major, which

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Speculative preparedness

note: "Preparedness" is right there in the title, but this is an economic analysis for the next crisis, not personal preparedness advice for the current one.

Jeff Kaufman discusses an interaction between price controls and emergency preparedness:

Let's say you see a potential pandemic coming, and you produce a product that could be critical. Maybe you make respirator masks, maybe you make ventilators, maybe you make PCR test reagents. You can see that if you and your competitors don't ramp up production and the pandemic happens, there will be a shortage. What do you do?

[...]

[One] option is to ramp up production now, speculatively. Start paying workers extra to work longer shifts and run your assembly lines around the clock. Train extra workers. Find what you're bottlenecked on and figure out how to get that ramped up too. If the pandemic fears were overblown you lose a lot of money, but if the pandemic happens people need what you have so much that you can charge high prices. How much

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Donations 2019

For the sixth year, I remain committed to using at least 10% of what income I earn to support the organizations that I think best make the universe a better place, and to talking about it on this blog. Here are my thoughts at the end of 2019.

These specific organizations I'm supporting are, in relative terms, mostly unchanged from 2018. The biggest changes are:

  • Marginally more saving / investing for later donation opportunities (including the potential for political contributions in 2020).
  • Because of the above, marginally less donor lottery.
  • The Good Food Institute replacing The Humane League.

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Compared to years past, I spent relatively more time thinking about donations this year. This reflects a few things:

  • I'll be giving more as my income grows and my personal savings reach more comfortable levels, so I expect to get more value from making an X% better decision.
  • I felt that some of the available opportunities were more difficult to think about but still worth considering (such as political donations), and
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