Recent Discussion

An update on Operations Camp 2019
382d5 min readShow Highlight

Jah Ying Chung, Project lead

Eirin M. Evjen, Exec. Dir. EA Norway

Jørgen R. Ljønes, Ass. Exec. Dir. EA Norway

In a forum post in February, we posted our plans for organizing an operations camp aimed at improving recruitment of operations talent for EA organizations. The EA Meta Fund gave us a grant for the project in March. This is an update on this project, our reasoning for changing course, and what we have found so far.

Executive summary:

  • We started researching the operations bottleneck in the fall of 2018, and decided to run an operations bootcamp for which we received a grant from the EA Me
... (Read more)

Same. Keep up the good work. I'm looking forward to hearing more.

The Survival and Flourishing Fund is a new fund that (as I understand it) is taking over a significant chunk of the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative's (BERI) grantmaking, and is just opening a new grant round that I am helping to disburse:

http://survivalandflourishing.org/#2019-q4-grant-round

The plan is to make a total of $1MM-$2MM in grants to organizations working on the long term flourishing and survival of humanity.

At this point in time SFF can only make grants to charities and not individuals, so if you have a project or organization that you want to get funding for, you will hav... (Read more)

4Denkenberger7h I'm excited to see this. The application appears geared to focused charities. Is it open to researchers in academia?

My understanding is that it's currently focused on nonprofits (in large part because it's much more logistically and legally complicated to send money to individuals)

Effective Altruism and Everyday Decisions
694d1 min readShow Highlight
Ask for your drink without a straw.
Unplug your microwave when not in use.
Bring a water bottle to events.
Stop using air conditioning.
Choose products that minimize packaging.

I've recently heard people advocate for all of these, generally in the form of "here are small things you can be doing to help the planet." In the EA Facebook group someone asked why we haven't tried to make estimates so we can prioritize among these. Is it more important to reuse containers, or to buy locally made soap?

I think the main reason we haven't put a lot of work into quantifying the impacts... (Read more)

Believing that my time is really valuable can lead to me making more wasteful decisions. Decisions like: "It is totally fine for me to buy all these expensive ergonomic keyboards simultaneously on Amazon and try them out, then throw away whichever ones do not work for me." Or "I will buy this expensive exercise equipment on a whim to test out. Even if I only use it once and end up trashing it a year later, it does not matter."
...
The thinking in the examples above worries me. People are bad at reasoning about when to make exceptions to r
... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post
Linch's Shortform
52dShow Highlight
2saulius4h Honest question: are there examples of philosophical problems that were solved in the last 50 years? And I mean solved by doing philosophy not by doing mostly unrelated experiments (like this one [https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/06/18/riddle/]). I imagine that even if some philosophers felt they answered a question, other would dispute it. More importantly, the solution would likely be difficult to understand and hence it would be of limited value. I'm not sure I'm right here.

After a bit more googling I found this which maybe shows that there have been philosophical problems solved recently. I haven't read about that specific problem though. It's difficult to imagine a short paper solving the hard problem of consciousnesses though.

Forum Update: New Features (September 2019)
324d1 min readShow Highlight

Shortform posts

If you click “New Shortform (Beta)” from the main menu, you’ll be able to write a brief post from a simplified interface:

As our About page notes, we don’t think posts need to be polished in order to be worth publishing. We want the EA Forum to be a place where people can explore ideas, even if they haven’t accounted for every consideration or counterargument. Our hope is that the Shortform interface will encourage more of this exploration.

For convenience, your Shortform posts will be collected on a page like this one. You can see a set of recent Shortform posts from many differ... (Read more)

Before reading the details I was surprised that 3 out of 5 community favourite posts are about invertebrate welfare. Seems like I'm missing out on something :)

Is EA Growing? EA Growth Metrics for 2018
1674mo7 min readShow Highlight

Is EA growing? Rather than speculating from anecdotes, I decided to collect some data. This is a continuation of the analysis started last year. For each trend, I collected the raw data and also highlighted in green where the highest point was reached (though this may be different from the period with the largest growth depending on which derivative you are looking at). You can download the raw data behind these tables here.







Implications

This year, I decided to separate growth stats into a few different categories, looking at how growth changes when we talk about people learning about EA through... (Read more)

3curunwe9h I think an aspect of this may be the dearth of continuously updating social media. I have been reading about EA for some time but really went down the Internet rabbit hole on it today and looked for ways to remain engaged. I tried to find some Instagram pages to follow, for instance, but did not easily find any (or any links should they exist) for 80k, EA, or GWWC that either existed or had been continuously updated since 2016. I think this is a subject that should still be generating more interest and has a huge potential to, but it seems to be a bit disconnected from the mainstream in ways that could be remedied by a more effective social media strategy.

I'm interested in this question. I've made the decision to quit most social media, and instagram isn't very popular in my friendgroup anyway. But I live in Silicon Valley, and I know people's habits change fast. I really buy the thesis that there's a large demographic of people who'd be interested in EA but would be much more likely to hear about it if they could discover / remain engaged with it on instagram.

Still, I'm not sure what it would look like. In my mind EA messages do poorly when they're forced to fit into... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

[Question]How much EA analysis of AI safety as a cause area exists?
6815d2 min readShow Highlight

AI safety has become a big deal in EA, and so I'm curious about how much "due diligence" on it has been done by the EA community as a whole. Obviously there have been many in-person discussions, but it's very difficult to evaluate whether these contain new or high-quality content. Probably a better metric is how much work has been done which:

1. Is publicly available;

2. Engages in detail with core arguments for why AI might be dangerous (type A), OR tries to evaluate the credibility of the arguments without directly engaging with them (type B);

3. Was motivated or instigated ... (Read more)

I'm not aware of such summaries, but I'll take a stab at it here:

Even though it's possible for the expected disvalue of a very improbable outcome to be high if the outcome is sufficiently awful, the relatively large degree of investment in AI safety work by the EA community today would only make sense if the probability of AI-catalyzed GCR were decently high. This Open Phil post for example doesn't frame this as a "yes it's extremely unlikely, but the downsides could be massive, so in expectation it's worth working on&quo... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

Ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA
224yShow Highlight

[My views are my own, not my employer's. Thanks to Michael Dickens for reviewing this post prior to publication.]

[More discussion here]


Summary

Spreading ethical offsetting is antithetical to EA values because it encourages people to focus on negating harm they personally cause rather than doing as much good as possible. Also, the most favored reference class for the offsets is rather vague and arbitrary.


There are a few positive aspects of using ethical offsets, and situations in which advocating ethical offsets may be effective.



Definition

Ethical offsetting is the practice of undoing harm

... (Read more)

Thanks, I agree. It still seems to me that a) mainstream people probably matter somewhat less than specific groups, b) we should think about how mainstream people would like to be helped, and that may or may not be through offsetting.

Kerry_Vaughan's Shortform
612hShow Highlight

Is there a "scientific method"?

If you learned about science in school, or read the Wikipedia page on the scientific method, you might have encountered the idea that there is a single thing called “The Scientific Method.” Different formulations of the scientific method are described differently, but it involves generating hypotheses, making predictions, running experiments, evaluating the results and then submitting them for peer review.

The idea is that all scientists follow something like this method.

The idea of there being a “scientific method” exists for

... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post
[Question]Young data scientist seeks project ideas
53d1 min readShow Highlight

I’m currently looking for data science jobs and am trying to build my data science portfolio. Do you have project ideas you think are important but don’t have time to implement, that you would be willing to share? Do you know of anyone I might ask? I’m most interested in working with behavioral data, or models/analyses that would improve the functioning of social institutions, but I’m very open to other subjects. Thanks!

Thanks very much! Have made accounts with Omdena and DrivenData.

1faunam16h Thanks so much! This sounds great. Just sent them a message. Hoping my name will get me further :) (it's Fauna)
1faunam16h Thank you! I've sent an inquiry their way.
Load More