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melian 20 July 2015 05:12 AM
70%

folks working in the field could do something less profitable which most people would find more valuable.


Are you sure that the public opinion on the value of the profession is a good criterion? I suspect an average person might value professional athletes above engineers (almost certainly above genetic engineers).


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btrettel 26 July 2015 03:33 PM
64%

Forgot one point in my reply. One poll on prestige suggests that engineers are seen as more prestigious than professional athletes. Prestige and value are not the same thing, but I thought I'd point this out anyway.

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melian 28 July 2015 05:04 AM
70%

I wish this poll reflected reality, but Iím afraid most people are not giving sincere answers. They may simply be afraid of looking shallow if they rank athletes above scientists or engineers. A better test of their real attitudes may be to ask them to name all famous living scientists or engineers they know and compare that to the number of famous athletes.

The poll also suggests that more people would encourage their children to become scientists than lawyers. If this is true, I donít understand why the majority of science students in universities are immigrants or children of immigrants.


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Fwiffo 28 July 2015 07:16 AM
55%

Usually polls are collected for statistical purposes. If the answers will not be associated with their identity there would be no motivation to keep appearances. Is there any reason to believe that names were ever even collected?

While all observation is theory dependent this kind of polls are pretty close to what is the most direct emprical access to opinions.

I could imagine a lot of LW folk to "update on evidence" when faced with emprical reserach that conlifcts with their personal beliefs. Is the university student distribution of stronger methodology? Are you sure you would be bothered by the methodology even if the results were the opposite?

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VoiceOfRa 29 July 2015 09:13 PM
63%


Usually polls are collected for statistical purposes. If the answers will not be associated with their identity there would be no motivation to keep appearances. Is there any reason to believe that names were ever even collected?


This is an "adaptation executors not fitness maximizers" type of situation.


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btrettel 25 July 2015 08:02 AM
62%

It is not necessary for us to agree on what actually is useful, but I imagine almost everyone would agree that there exists other activities people working in finance could do which would be more valuable in some sense. Again, two people might not agree on what these activities are, but individually they agree that there are better opportunities.

And I'm confident a large number of people working in finance would agree that what they is not very valuable, and that they are motivated by the large salary and/or prestige or whatnot.

Perhaps it's not necessary to work in the most optimal field for yourself. However, it seems to me that finance wouldn't even be considered among the top fields most smart people should consider unless they give extremely high priority to earnings.

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melian 25 July 2015 12:49 PM
72%

I imagine almost everyone would agree that there exist other activities people working in finance could do which would be more valuable

Iím not entirely convinced of that. Obviously there are bad apples like Bernie Madoff who would have contributed more value to society by working in almost any other occupation (including car theft and burglary). But suppose we consider a regular bank worker whose job is to decide which business ventures deserve credit and which are likely to go bankrupt. Is there an occupation where he can definitely create more value for society?
finance wouldn't even be considered among the top fields most smart people should consider unless they give extremely high priority to earnings

This is true, but is there reason to think that without financial incentives these people would choose more valuable occupations? Perhaps, they would spend their time studying ancient Greek literature or even playing computer games.


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btrettel 26 July 2015 04:13 PM
64%

> Is there an occupation where he can definitely create more value for society?

To work from this example, yes, I do think this person has better opportunities. Finance in my view is one big lottery. The person in your example can't be very certain of the value of their decisions (though if they get feedback and try hard, I'm sure they could be good at this). It is much easier to find direct actions with more certain benefits that are as large or larger, I think.

Perhaps this is unconvincing to you. If so, I overestimated how many people would agree with me. If I were a loan officer, I'd probably want to quit because I would not consider my work valuable (or interesting, to be honest).

> This is true, but is there reason to think that without financial incentives these people would choose more valuable occupations?

I don't think they would necessarily choose better jobs. However, this is not the question at hand. The question is whether the finance industry's profits reflect actual value, not whether certain academic fields or whatnot are valuable. That video games likely aren't that valuable in a larger sense is irrelevant.

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melian 28 July 2015 05:31 AM
70%

Finance in my view is one big lottery.

There is certainly an element of gambling in finance, but I think there is way more than pure chance in it. As a simplest example consider two people applying for a loan. One has a steady income and a perfect credit history. Another has neither. Would you say that both have the same chance of repaying the loan and that a loan officer cannot rationally decide whose request should be approved?

You may be right that there are currently too many people employed in the financial sector. But do you really think we would be better off by closing all banks?


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Silent Cal 30 July 2015 10:28 AM
69%

Regarding the loan officer example: Surely having at least someone doing the job is a big win? As compared to either no loans being available, or everyone who asks getting a loan, or loans being distributed by lottery (these last two cases would likely bankrupt the creditors and devolve to the first)?

But if you acknowledge that having some degree of intelligence applied to deciding who gets loans is worthwhile, then it becomes a matter of diminishing returns. Certainly the field can reach a point where bringing in additional intelligence is not a good use of resources. But how do we know if we're at that point?

This, ultimately, is why I appeal to the signals of the free market, despite the many known failures: because how else can we answer that question?

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Fwiffo 28 July 2015 06:51 AM
55%

Hmmm, it would strike me that the question on whether a corporation is likely to go bankcrypt is a matter of facts but here it is handled as if it was a social valuation that could in principle be decided in multiple ways without conflict.

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Fwiffo 28 July 2015 06:56 AM
54%

It would be good if valuable activities would be incentivised and the setting of incentives needs to be somebodys job but does the financial sector even try to assing valuable (in the social sense) jobs as the incentivised ones? In a way that duty is offloaded into consumers but I have a hard time believing that hitting on immidiate rewards that you get from products very well reflects ones opinions on what kind of activities societies should back up.

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Fwiffo 28 July 2015 06:47 AM
55%

When you rephrase the question on whether sports or engineering is more valuable the expect answer is quite different. Sports embodies itself in the individual athletes while engineering has alot of value that can't be attributed to single individuals. One could also say that 1 top athlete represents 10 or so professional athtletes that represent 100-1000 hobbies level athletes etc. That is you can't buy top athletes seprately from the rest of the the people that get things going.

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