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Saturday, January 23rd 2021
Sat, Jan 23rd 2021

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1James Montavon6hNational Year of Service for Free College as an EA Idea This is mostly anecdotal and n of 1; interested to hear the community's thoughts. 1. During high school, I went on mission trips through my church. One I credit with starting me thinking about EA type trade offs and values- we went to Guatemala, and spent the first week working with La Casa del Alfarero working with the absolute poorest of the poor, people living and working inside of the Guatemala City garbage dump. This organization did real research into what interventions they could do to most help these people, and we did things like build stoves with chimneys so that they wouldn't inhale plastic fumes in their house and gave kids free healthy meals if they came to school. They also explicitly taught us that they took time out of their more effective work to babysit us rich white kids because some of us would be moved to donate and that would pay off in the end, and that what they really needed was more funding to hire local poor people who were better at these tasks anyways and then we would be helping someone with a job, too. The next week we spent with a missionary named Bob who lived in a beautiful villa overlooking a rainforest canyon and had really good food and people come play classical Spanish guitar and we also occasionally went to an orphanage and sang some songs and took lots of pictures. The contrast was so stark that it affected all of us, and we did not return to Bob's in future years. 2. Currently, I am about to graduate from my undergrad degree and will enter graduate school for my MPH in Epidemiology in the fall. I am on the GI bill, and the VA is also paying for my grad school. This funding of my college means a) I can plan to work in a lower paying but more effective field like public health because I don't have to worry about college debt and b) I have been able to take exactly the research

Friday, January 22nd 2021
Fri, Jan 22nd 2021

Shortform
3DanielFilan1dSounds like if you could cheaply get rid of anti-money-laundering laws, this would be pretty effective altruism: > Necessarily applying a broad brush, the current anti-money laundering policy prescription helps authorities intercept about $3 billion of an estimated $3 trillion in criminal funds generated annually (0.1 percent success rate), and costs banks and other businesses more than $300 billion in compliance costs, more than a hundred times the amounts recovered from criminals. Found at this Marginal Revolution post. [https://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2021/01/the-anti-money-laundering-fraud.html]
1Prabhat Soni1dSOCRATES' CASE AGAINST DEMOCRACY https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/why-socrates-hated-democracy-and-what-we-can-do-about-it [https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/why-socrates-hated-democracy-and-what-we-can-do-about-it] Socrates makes the following argument: 1. Just like we only allow skilled pilots to fly airplanes, licensed doctors to operate on patients or trained firefighters to use fire enignes, similarly we should only allow informed voters to vote in elections. 2. "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter". Half of American adults don’t know that each state gets two senators and two thirds don’t know what the FDA does [http://www.latimes.com/opinion/opinion-la/la-oe-goldberg31jul31-column.html] . 3. (Whether a voter is informed can be evaluated by a short test on the basics of elections, for example.) Pros: better quality of candidates elected, would give uninformed voters a strong incentive to learn aout elections. Cons: would be crazy unpopular, possibility of the small group of informed voters acting acting in self-interest -- which would worsen inequality. (I did a shallow search and couldn't find something like this on the EA Forum or Center for Election Science [https://electionscience.org/].)

Thursday, January 21st 2021
Thu, Jan 21st 2021

Personal Blogposts
Shortform
7Chi3dI just wondered whether there is systematic bias in how much advice there is in EA for people who tend to be underconfident and people who tend to be appropriately or overconfident. Anecdotally, when I think of Memes/norms in effective altruism that I feel at least conflicted about, that's mostly because they seem to be harmful for underconfident people to hear. Way in which this could be true and bad: people tend to post advice that would be helpful to themselves, and underconfident people tend to not post advice/things in general. Way in which this could be true but unclear in sign: people tend to post advice that would be helpful to themselves, and they are more appropriately or overconfident people in the community than underconfident ones. Way in which this could be true but appropriate: advice that would be harmful when overconfident people internalize it tends to be more harmful than advice that's harmful to underconfident people. Hence, people post proportionally less of the first. (I don't think the vast space of possible advice just has more advice that's harmful for underconfident people to hear than advice that's harmful for overconfident people to hear.) Maybe memes/norms that might be helpful for underconfident for people to hear or their properties that could be harmful for underconfident people are also just more salient to me.
5WilliamKiely3d#DonationRegret #Mistakes Something it occurred to me it might be useful to tell others about that I haven't yet said anywhere: The only donation I've really regretted making was one of the first significant donations I made: On May 23, 2017, I donated $3,181.00 to Against Malaria Foundation. It was my largest donation to date and my first donation after taking the GWWC pledge (in December 2016). I primarily regretted and regret making this donation not because I later updated my view toward realizing/believing that I could have done more good by donating the money elsewhere (although that too is a genuine reason to feel regret about making a donation, and I have indeed since updated my view toward thinking other donation opportunities are better). Rather, I primarily regretted making the donation because six months after donating the money I learned that if I had saved that money and donated it instead on Giving Tuesday 2017, I could have gotten the money counter-factually matched by Facebook [https://www.eagivingtuesday.org/#h.md45fep1oihk], thereby directing twice as much money toward the effective charity of my choice and doing almost twice as much good. (I say 'almost' as much good because I think a smaller but nontrivial amount of good would have been done by Facebook's money had it gone to other nonprofits instead). (I in fact donated $4,000 on Giving Tuesday 2017 and got it all matched. I got all my donations matched in 2018 and 2019 too, and probably most of my donations in 2020, though matches have yet to be announced by Facebook. Other mistakes around this will go in a separate comment sometime.) Reflecting on this more: Since I think marginal donations to some organizations do more than twice as much good as donations to other organizations (including AMF) in expectation, there is a sense in which missing a counterfactual matching opportunity was not as significant of a mistake as giving to the wrong giving opportunity / cause area. Yet on the other
3finm2dI think it can be useful to motivate longtermism by drawing an analogy to the prudential case — swapping out the entire future for your future, and only considering what would make your life go best. Suppose that one day you learned that your ageing process had stopped. Maybe scientists identified the gene for ageing, and found that your ageing gene was missing. This amounts to learning that you now have much more control over how long you live than previously, because there's no longer a process imposed on you from outside that puts a guaranteed ceiling on your lifespan. If you die in the next few centuries, it'll most likely be due to an avoidable, and likely self-imposed, accident. What should you do? To begin with, you might try a bit harder to avoid those avoidable risks to your life. If previously you had adopted a laissez faire attitude to wearing seatbelts and helmets, now could be time to reconsider. You might also being to spend more time and resources on things which compound their benefits over the long-run. If you'd been putting off investing because of the hassle, you now have a much stronger reason to get round to it. 5% returns for 30 years multiplies your original investment just over fourfold. 5% returns for 1,000 years works out at a significantly more attractive multiplier of more than 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. If keeping up your smoking habit is likely to lead to lingering lung problems which are very hard or costly to cure, you might care much more about kicking that habit soon. And you might begin to care more about 'meta' skills, like learning how to learn. While previously such skills seemed frivolous, now it's clear there's time for them to pay dividends. Finally, you might want to set up checks against some slide into madness, boredom, or destructive behaviour which living so long could make more likely. So you think carefully about your closest-held values, and write them down as a guide. You draw up plans for quickly kicking an ad
2flowo2dI can also highly recommend Deep Work by Cal Newport, his main thesis is that 'real' work only happens/productivity is high when you're doing it for a few hours at a time instead of 15min blocks with constant interruptions. Edit: should have read the linked post first haha, so see this as another vote for Cal Newport
1antimonyanthony2dCrosspost: "Tranquilism Respects Individual Desires [https://tobeanythingatallblog.wordpress.com/2021/01/10/tranquilism-respects-individual-desires/] " I wrote a defense of an axiology [https://longtermrisk.org/tranquilism/] on which an experience is perfectly good to the extent that it is absent of craving for change. This defense follows in part from a reductionist view of personal identity, which is usually considered in EA circles to be in support of total symmetric utilitarianism, but I argue that this view lends support to a form of negative utilitarianism.

Wednesday, January 20th 2021
Wed, Jan 20th 2021

Personal Blogposts
Shortform
23Chi3dObservation about EA culture and my journey to develop self-confidence: Today I noticed an eerie similarity between things I'm trying to work on to become more confident and effective altruism culture. For example, I am trying to reduce my excessive use of qualifiers. At the same time, qualifiers are very popular in effective altruism. It was very enlightening when a book asked me to guess whether the following piece of dialogue was from a man or woman: 'I just had a thought, I don't know if it's worth mentioning...I just had a thought about [X] on this one, and I know it might not be the right time to pop it on the table, but I just thought I'd mention it in case it's useful.' and I just immediately thought 'No, that's an effective altruist'. I think what the community actually endorses is communicating the degree of epistemic certainty and making it easy to disagree, while the above quote is anxious social signalling. I do think the community does a lot of the latter though, and it's partly rewarded because of confounding with the first. (In the above example it's obvious, but I think anxious social signaling is also often the place where 'I'm uncertain about this', 'I haven't thought much about this', and 'I might be wrong' (of course you might be wrong) come from. That's certainly the case for me.) Tangentially, there is also a strong emphasis on deference and a somewhat conservative approach to not causing harm, esp. with new projects. Overall, I am worried that this communication norm and the two memes I mentioned foster under-confidence, a tendency to keep yourself small, and the feeling that you need permission to work on important problems or to think through important questions. The communication norm and memes I mentioned also have upsides, esp. when targeted at overconfident people, and I haven't figured out yet what my overall take on them is. I just thought it was an interesting observation that certain things I'm trying to decrease are particularl
18Chi3dShould we interview people with high status in the effective altruism community (or make other content) featuring their (personal) story, how they have overcome challenges, and live into their values? Background: I think it's no secret that effective altruism has some problems with community health. (This is not to belittle the great work that is done in this space.) Posts that talk about personal struggles, for example related to self-esteem and impact, usually get highly upvoted. While many people agree that we should reward dedication and that the thing that really matters is to try your best given your resources, I think that, within EA, the main thing that gives you status, that many people admire, desire, and tie their self-esteem to is being smart. Other altruistic communities seem to do a better job at making people feel included. I think this has already been discussed a lot, and there seem to be some reasons for why this is just inherently harder for effective altruism to do. But one specific thing I noticed is what I associate with leaders of different altruistic communities. When I think of most high status people in effective altruism, I don't think of their altruistic (or other personal) virtues, I think 'Wow, they're smart.' Not because of a lack of altruistic virtues - I assume -, but because smartness is just more salient to me. On the other hand, when I think of other people, for example Michelle Obama or Melinda Gates or even Alicia Keys for that matter, I do think "Wow, these people are so badass. They really live into their values." I wouldn't want to use them as role models for how to have impact, but I do use them as role models for what kind of person I would like to be. I admire them as people, and they inspire me to work on myself to become like them in relevant respects, and they make me think it's possible. I am worried that people look at high status people in effective altruism for what kind of person they would like to be, but the
4vaidehi_agarwalla4dReasons for/against Facebook & plans to migrate the community out of there Epistemitc Status: My very rough thoughts. I am confident of the reasons for/against, but the last section is mostly speculation so I won't attempt to clarify my certainty levels Reasons for moving away from Facebook * Facebook promotes bad discussion norms (see Point 4 here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/p7EWkqa8TogNskXu5/suggestions-for-online-ea-discussion-norms#Being_an_active_bystander_] ) * Poor movement knowledge retention * Irritating to navigate: It's easy to not be aware that certain groups exist (since there are dozens) and it's annoying to filter through all the other stuff in Facebook to get to them Reasons against * Extremely high switching costs * start-up costs (see Neels' comment) * harder to pay attention to new platform * easier to integrate with existing scoial media * Offputting/intimidating to newer members * Past attempts haven't taken off (e.g. the EA London Discussion Board [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/H3nmq4M46W4k7qwDY/ea-directory-and-groups-discussion-board-1] , but that was also not promoted super hard) * Existing online space (the Forum) is a bit too formal/initimidating How would we make the switch?In order of increasing speculativeness * One subcommunity at a time. It seems like most EA groups are already more active in their spaces other than Facebook, but it would be interesting to see this replicated on the cause area level by understanding what the community members' needs are and seeing if there's a way to have alternatives. * Moving certain services found on Facebook to other sites: having a good opportunities board so people go to another place for ea jobs & volunteer opportunities, moving the editing & review group to the forum (?), making it easier for people to reach out to each other (e.g. EA Hub Community directory). Then it may be easier to mov

Tuesday, January 19th 2021
Tue, Jan 19th 2021

Personal Blogposts
Shortform
6Aidan O'Gara5dThree Scenarios for AI Progress How will AI develop over the next few centuries? Three scenarios seem particularly likely to me: * "Solving Intelligence": Within the next 50 years, a top AI lab like Deepmind or OpenAI builds a superintelligent AI system, by using massive compute within our current ML paradigm. * "Comprehensive AI Systems": Over the next century or few, computers keep getting better at a bunch of different domains. No one AI system is incredible at everything, each new job requires fine-tuning and domain knowledge and human-in-the-loop supervision, but soon enough we hit annual GDP growth of 25%. * "No takeoff": Looks qualitatively similar to the above, except growth remains steady around 2% for at least several centuries. We remain in the economic paradigm of the Industrial Revolution, and AI makes an economic contribution similar to that of electricity or oil without launching us into a new period of human history. Progress continues as usual. For clarify my beliefs about AI timelines, I found it helpful to flesh out these concrete "scenarios" by answering a set of closely related questions about how transformative AI might develop: * When do we achieve TAI? AGI? Superintelligence? How fast is takeoff? Who builds it? How much compute does it require? How much does that cost? Agent or Tool? Is machine learning the paradigm, or do we have another fundamental shift in research direction? What are the key AI Safety challenges? Who is best positioned to contribute? The potentially useful insight here is that answering one of these questions helps you answer the others. If massive compute is necessary, then TAI will be built by a few powerful governments or corporations, not by a diverse ecosystem of small startups. If TAI isn't achieved for another century, that affects which research agendas are most important today. Follow this exercise for awhile, and you might end up with a handful of distinct scena
1Awah Eric5dUpdated question (slight update in wording): I am a Christian pastor for several rural communities of the West Region of Cameroon. I regularly come across opportunities to counterfactually (persons are dying since I do not have the funds to help) save lives with few hundreds of USD. I can select these opportunities. I am looking for Christian donations. Either otherwise not pledged or used for lower utility. Please let me know if you know of a local Christian church that could be interested in cost-effective global health interventions. I will be very happy to schedule a Skype call with someone from the church. My Skype is (live:.cid.4e972b7084b621) and my e-mail is (awaheric001@yahoo.com [awaheric001@yahoo.com]). You can also call my phone (+237 676367876). I am much better in explaining in person, so please call or schedule one.

Friday, January 15th 2021
Fri, Jan 15th 2021

Frontpage Posts
Shortform
9SiebeRozendal9dThis is a small write-up of when I applied for a PhD in Risk Analysis 1.5 years ago. I can elaborate in the comments! I believed doing a PhD in risk analysis would teach me a lot of useful skills to apply to existential risks, and it might allow me to direectly work on important topics. I worked as a Research Associate on the qualitative ide of systemic risk for half a year. I ended up not doing the PhD because I could not find a suitable place, nor do I think pure research is the best fit for me. However, I still believe more EAs should study something along the lines of risk analysis, and its an especially valuable career path for people with an engineering background. Why I think risk analysis is useful: EA researchers rely a lot on quantification, but use a limited range of methods (simple Excel sheets or Guesstimate models). My impression is also that most EAs don't understand these methods enough to judge when they are useful or not (my past self included). Risk analysis expands this toolkit tremendously, and teaches stuff like the proper use of priors, underlying assumptions of different models, and common mistakes in risk models. The field of Risk Analysis Risk analysis is a pretty small field, and most is focused on risks of limited scope and risks that are easier to quantify than the risks EAs commonly look at. There is a Society of Risk Analysis (SRA), which manages the Journal of Risk Analysis (the main journal of this field). I found most of their study topics not so interesting, but it was useful to get an overview of the field, and there were some useful contacts to make (1). The EA-aligned org GCRI is active and well-established in SRA, but no other EA orgs are. Topics & advisers I hoped to work on GCR/X-risk directly, which substantially reduced my options. It would have been useful to just invest in learning a method very well, but I was not motivated to research something not directly relevant. I think it's generally difficult to make an ac

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