Recent Discussion

Project Drawdown released their 2020 Update last week. It's now completely freely available and, in my opinion, the most accessible quantitative reference on climate solutions.

Updated table of climate solutions: https://drawdown.org/solutions/table-of-solutions

Drawdown 2020 review (requires email registration to download): https://drawdown.org/drawdown-framework/drawdown-review-2020

Notably, Reducing food waste has moved up to take the top rank, followed by Health and Education and then Plant-based diets. Refrigerant management, the previous top priority, is now ranked fourth, followed by ... (Read more)

I want to make one more point, separated from the disinterested economic and technological arguments above. Understand that lobbying for nuclear research - as you and Let's Fund have promoted - is not politically neutral and does not occur in a vacuum. The U.S. through the DOE and NSF is by far the largest R&D supporter of nuclear and energy research in general, worldwide. The current administration is heavily focusing on financial support and R&D for coal and nuclear at the expense of other energy technologies and energy efficiency. The a... (read more)

1MatthewDahlhausen1hResponses to your points above: 1. IPCC Integrated Assessment models don't dictate technologies. By design, they assume many different future scenarios and calculate impacts from those scenarios. Some scenarios use ample amounts of BECCS to achieve negative emissions to hit a 2C target by trading off more short term emissions with expensive negative emissions in the future. This isn't a determination of what is needed, just an example of a technology scenario that hits an emissions target. Massive amounts of BECCS would be extremely expensive; IAMs don't factor in these economic factors. However BECCS may be needed to get negative emissions. Nuclear can't do that, and will need to compete economically for energy production. If you think nuclear is absolutely necessary, please send me the particular IAM that states that and the economic assumptions compared to other electric grid build-outs. When I speak of the academic community here, I'm referring to the community doing resource planning and grid modeling - the people that are making the decisions about what grid resources, transmission, and R&D to pursue. In this community, nuclear is not recognized as a substantial contributor to short term or long term decarbonization. 2. Break out the capital cost figures. Licensing and regulation isn't the major difference. That accounts for less than 10% of the cost; The World Nuclear Association (nuclear lobbying group) puts it at 5% of the cost. The $3k figure in China is because labor is much cheaper there, which is also a reality for renewables. https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/economic-aspects/economics-of-nuclear-power.aspx [https://www.world-nuclear.org/information-library/economic-aspects/economics-of-nuclear-power.aspx] On cost - I'll make the point again - even with heroic capital cost reductions, nuclear won't be competitive in the market. The O&M and fuel costs associated with rankine-cycle based power production cannot compete with VRE. Even
Effective Altruism and Free Riding
552d10 min readShow Highlight

I'd like to thank Parker Whitfill, Andrew Kao, Stefan Schubert, and Phil Trammell for very helpful comments. Errors are my own.


Many people have argued that those involved in effective altruism should “be nice”, meaning that they should cooperate when facing prisoner’s dilemma type situations ([1] [2] [3]). While I believe that some of these are convincing arguments, it seems to be underappreciated just how often someone attempting to do good will face prisoner’s dilemmas. Previous authors seem to highlight mostly zero-sum conflict between opposing value systems... (Read more)

Thanks for that reference! I hadn't come across that before. I think the main difference is that for most of my post I'm considering public goods problems among people who are completely unselfish but have different moral values. But problems also exist when people have identical moral values and some level of selfishness. Paul Christiano's post does a nice job of explaining that case. Milton Friedman also wrote about that problem (specifically, he talked about how poverty alleviation is a public good).

As a community, we should think more about how to create and improve our collective epistemic institutions. With that, I mean the formalized ways of creating and organizing knowledge in the community beyond individual blogs and organizations. Examples are online platforms like the EA Forum and Metaculus, events like EA Global and the Leaders Forum, surveys like the EA survey and the survey at the Leaders Forum. This strikes me as a neglected form of community-building that might be particularly high-leverage.

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions

Epistemic progress is cru

... (Read more)

I sometimes see people claim that EA research tends to be low-quality or "not taken seriously" by scholars in relevant fields.

There are cases where this clearly isn't true (e.g. AI alignment questions seem to have at least split the scholarly community, with a lot of people on both sites). 

But I worry that, as a non-scientist, I'm living in a bubble where I don't see strong critique of GiveWell's methodology, FHI's policy papers, etc.

Does anyone have good examples of respected* scholars who have reviewed EA research and either praised it highly or found it lackluster? 

*I'm using this

... (Read more)

Likewise for publications at CSER. I'd add that for policy work, written policy submissions often provide summaries and key takaways and action-relevant points based on 'primary' work done by the centre and its collaborators, where the primary work is peer-reviewed.

We've received informal/private feedback from people in policy/government roles at various points that our submissions and presentations have been particularly useful or influential. And we'll have some confidential written testimony to support this for a few examples fo... (read more)

Low back pain (lumbago) is a leading cause of disability and reduced productivity around the world, and the EA community seems no exception. Since I have had quite a bit of back pain, and spent hundreds of hours searching for solutions, I thought I might as well share some of the many useful tips and resources I've found.

Thanks to the hacks I list below, I've gone from having intense, crippling low back pain to maximizing my wellbeing in an Epicurean sense. (Needless to say, what follows is not medical advice, and may not work for everyone; low back pain can have many causes, and you... (Read more)

For me, the most important intervention is to sleep on hard surface. I put 4 layers of yoga mat on my sofa, and it helps much.

I really enjoyed "What posts are you planning on writing?"

This is the lazy version, for people who want a post to exist but want someone else to write it. Given that we're all stuck inside anyway, I'm hoping we can use this opportunity to get a lot of writing done (like Isaac Newton!)

So: What are some unwritten posts that you think ought to exist?

If you want something to exist badly enough that you'd pay for it, consider sharing that information! There's nothing wrong with offering money; some really good work has come from small-scale contracting of this kind.

1Answer by sky6hPosts on how people came to their values, how much individuals find themselves optimizing for certain values, and how EA analysis is/isn't relevant. Bonus for points for resources for talking about this with other people. I'd like to have more "Intro to EA" convos that start with, "When I'm prioritixing values like [X, Y, Z], I've found EA really helpful. It'd be less relevant if I valued [ABC ] instead, and it seems less relevant or in those times when I prioritize other things. What do you value? How/When do you want to prioritize that? How would you explore that?" I think personal stories here would be illustrative.

A nice example of the second part, value dependence, is Ozy Brennan's series reviewing GiveWell charities.

Why might you donate to GiveDirectly?
You need a lot of warmfuzzies in order to motivate yourself to donate.
You think encouraging cash benchmarking is really important, and giving GiveDirectly more money will help that.
You want to encourage charities to do more RCTs on their programs by rewarding the charity that does that most enthusiastically.
You care about increasing people’s happiness and don’t care about saving the lives of small
... (read more)

I am working on a civic handbook - something to guide political engagement for the ordinary person. It has a combination of practical advice for making a difference, and policy guidance for several important issues where strong evidence and expert agreement exists. I welcome input and writing from others; here is the current draft which you can edit. We will hopefully post or publish it in a more convenient and appealing form when it is done.

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.

1) Both farmers and consumers (who may overlap) could benefit if food aid of advanced economies was purchased locally.

2) Vulnerability to price spikes could be addressed by improved resilience of local crops to weather and by better local storage practices.

3) A developing country with majority subsistence population should invest into rural development so that farmers can first feed themselves securely and second engage in trade of their surpluses as well as diversify their production from just agriculture.

What are the implications of the offence-defence balance for trajectories of violence?

Questions: Is a change in the offence-defence balance part of why interstate (and intrastate?) conflict appears to have become less common? Does this have implications for the likelihood and trajectories of conflict in future (and perhaps by extension x-risks)?

Epistemic status: This post is unpolished, un-researched, and quickly written. I haven't looked into whether existing work has already explored questions like these; if you know of any such work, please commen... (read more)

The EAG 2020 team has invited Charity Entrepreneurship (CE) to conduct an AMA on the sidelines of this year’s virtual conference. CE helps start high-impact charities through extensive research and a two-month incubation program.

Hi EAG, Patrick here. I joined CE in the summer of 2019 as a Charity Mentor and have since become more involved, most recently as a Director of Communications. Besides communications, I contribute to developing the curriculum and content of the upcoming incubation program.

I look forward to your questions about CE, our current application window for the 2020 inc... (Read more)

Are there any charity ideas outside of the four here that you'd like to see incubation program applicants suggest?

2MichaelStJules13hWhat kinds of charities (and specific interventions?) are on the radar to cofound for this round of applicants?
2MichaelStJules13hWhat's your involvement in the Swiss ballot initiative on foreign aid? Is this to make sure it's implemented correctly and actually accomplishes what it was intended to, with respect to the effectiveness requirement?

COVID-19 is a tragedy with more everyday social implications in the developed world than anything since World War II. Many EAs are wondering what, if anything, to do about COVID to help the world. To try to investigate further, I am helping articulate possible research ideas for further discussion and consideration.

The kind of research we need to do in this situation is very different from the kind of research EA is used to doing well. We normally spend several months carefully researching a single topic that doesn’t change very much. With COVID, everything about this is reversed—the situation

... (Read more)

sent, thank you

The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity is out today. I’ve been working on the book with Toby for the past 18 months, and I’m excited for everyone to read it. I think it has the potential to make a profound difference to the way the world thinks about existential risk.

How to get it

  • It's out in the UK on March 5 and US March 24
  • An audiobook, narrated by Toby himself, is out March 24
  • You can buy it on Amazon now, or at theprecipice.com/purchase
  • You can download the opening chapters for free by signing up to the newsletter at www.theprecipice.com

What you can do

  • Re
... (Read more)

I noticed that much of the Wikipedia article about this book was copied from this post. Did you give anyone authorization to write the article using this post as the source? I ask because Wikipedia is very strict about copyrights, and I need to make sure that the article is rewritten if it violates your copyright.

Introduction & overview

Hi all! I'm Sam, a US-based web developer & designer. My apologies for the clickbait title, but some basic research has led me to think that insomnia is a neglected, burdensome problem on a global scale with a tractable solution. Specifically, based on assumptions laid out below, I think insomnia has a burden of ~130 million QALYs lost annually (compare to malaria's 55 million for scale). Furthermore, I think a (technically simple) implementation of a proven therapy intervention can drastically reduce the above number. I'm building a project to att... (Read more)

Tried in an online course. Hope the book helps

EtA: also see LessWrong Coronavirus Agenda ; consider posting there first (it was created before and has more activity)

See a list of existing projects here: http://covidprojects.org/

two of the main blockers for predictions markets seem to be 1) legality, and 2) subsidies. seems like this state of emergency / immediate potential benefit of prediction markets might be a good time to address 1), and maybe even 2)

Robert Wiblin mused about how it's very likely there will be a long spate of public distrust and criticism of expert communities in medical research, public health and epidemiology, whose collective failures, perceived or real, will be connected to the COVID-19 pandemic. Robert analogized this illustration to how public trust in expert communities of economists plummeted after the Great Recession. He gave a brief but broad overview of different aspects of this.

I've seen more of the EA community feel a similar ambiguity about the relationship of expert communities to the public, and t... (Read more)

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