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Tuesday, April 7th 2020
Tue, Apr 7th 2020

No posts for April 7th 2020

Friday, April 3rd 2020
Fri, Apr 3rd 2020

Shortform
7evelynciara4dDo emergency universal pass/fail policies improve or worsen student well-being and future career prospects? I think a natural experiment is in order. Many colleges are adopting universal pass/fail grading for this semester in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while others aren't. Someone should study the impact this will have on students to inform future university pandemic response policy.

Thursday, April 2nd 2020
Thu, Apr 2nd 2020

Shortform
3saulius5dIf I were to read one of EA-related books (e.g. Doing Good Better [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doing_Good_Better], The Most Good You Can Do [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Most_Good_You_Can_Do], The Life You Can Save [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Life_You_Can_Save], The Precipice [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Precipice:_Existential_Risk_and_the_Future_of_Humanity] , Superintelligence [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superintelligence:_Paths,_Dangers,_Strategies], etc.), I would consider writing/improving a summary of the book in wikipedia while reading it, in a way that conveys main points well. It could help you to digest the book better and help others to understand the ideas a bit. You could do it in english as well as maybe in some other language. To see whether it’s worth putting in the effort, you can check out Wikipedia pageview statistics of the books I mentioned and others here [https://tools.wmflabs.org/pageviews/?project=en.wikipedia.org&platform=all-access&agent=user&redirects=0&start=2019-03&end=2020-02&pages=Doing_Good_Better%7CSuperintelligence:_Paths,_Dangers,_Strategies%7CThe_Precipice:_Existential_Risk_and_the_Future_of_Humanity%7CThe_Most_Good_You_Can_Do%7CThe_Life_You_Can_Save] (it doesn’t include some views that come from redirects though). It seems that the page Superintelligence is the most viewed one out of these with an average of 4,597 monthly visitors.
1MichaelA4dIF A TYPICAL MAMMALIAN SPECIES SURVIVES FOR ~1 MILLION YEARS, SHOULD A 200,000 YEAR OLD SPECIES EXPECT ANOTHER 800,000 YEARS, OR ANOTHER MILLION YEARS? tl;dr I think it's "another million years", or slightly longer, but I'm not sure. In The Precipice [http://theprecipice.com/], Toby Ord writes: (There are various extra details and caveats about these estimates in the footnotes.) Ord also makes similar statements on the FLI Podcast [https://futureoflife.org/2020/03/31/he-precipice-existential-risk-and-the-future-of-humanity-with-toby-ord/] , including the following: I think this is a strong analogy from a poetic perspective. And I think that highlighting the typical species' lifespan is a good starting point for thinking about how long we might have left. (Although of course we could also draw on many other facts for that analysis, as Ord discusses in the book.) But I also think that there's a way in which the lifespan analogy might be a bit misleading. If a human is 70, we expect they have less time less to live than if a human is 20. But I'm not sure whether, if a species if 700,000 years old, we should expect that species to go extinct sooner than a species that is 200,000 years old will. My guess would be that a ~1 million year lifespan for a typical mammalian species would translate into a roughly 1 in a million chance of extinction each year, which doesn't rise or fall very much in a predictable way over most of the species' lifespan. Specific events, like changes in a climate or another species arriving/evolving, could easily change the annual extinction rate. But I'm not aware of an analogy here to how ageing increases the annual risk of humans dying from various causes. I would imagine that, even if a species has been around for almost or more than a million years, we should still perhaps expect a roughly 1 in a million chance of extinction each year. Or perhaps we should even expect them to have a somewhat lower annual chance of extinction, and th

Wednesday, April 1st 2020
Wed, Apr 1st 2020

Shortform
2Ramiro5dDoes anyone have any idea / info on what proportion of the infected cases are getting Covid19 inside hospitals? (Epistemic status: low, but I didin't find any research on that, so the hypothesis deserves a bit more of attention) 1. Nosocomial infections are serious [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hospital-acquired_infection]business. Hospitals are basically big buildings full of dying people and the stressed personel who goes from one bed to another try to avoid it. Throw a deadly and very contagious virus in it, and it becomes a slaughterhouse. 2. Previous coronavirus were rapidly spread in hospitals [https://bmcmedicine.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12916-015-0450-0]and other care units. That made South East Asia kinda prepared [https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/protecting-healthcare-workers-from-covid-19-infection-control-works] for possibly similar epidemics (maybe I'm wrong, but in news their medical staff is always in Hazmat suits, unlike most Health workers in the West [https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/21/coronavirus-plea-from-italy-treat-patients-at-home/] ). Maybe this is a neglected point in the successful approach in South East Asia? 3. I know hospitals have serious protocols to avoid it... but it takes only a few careless cleaning staff, or a patient's relatives going to cafeteria, or a badly designed airflow, to ruin everything. Just one Hospital chain in Brazil concentrates most of deaths in Sao Paulo [https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/cotidiano/2020/03/saude-municipal-pede-intervencao-de-rede-hospitalar-apos-65-mortos-por-coronavirus.shtml] , and 40% of the total national.

Monday, March 30th 2020
Mon, Mar 30th 2020

Shortform
5NunoSempere8dCORONAVIRUS AND FAMINE The Good Judgement Open forecasting tournament gives a 66% chance for the answer to "Will the UN declare that a famine exists in any part of Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania, or Uganda in 2020?" * https://www.gjopen.com/questions/1559-will-the-un-declare-that-a-famine-exists-in-any-part-of-ethiopia-kenya-somalia-tanzania-or-uganda-in-2020 [https://www.gjopen.com/questions/1559-will-the-un-declare-that-a-famine-exists-in-any-part-of-ethiopia-kenya-somalia-tanzania-or-uganda-in-2020] I think that the 66% is a slight overestimate. But nonetheless, if a famine does hit, it would be terrible, as other countries might not be able to spare enough attention due to the current pandemic. 1. https://ourworldindata.org/what-does-a-famine-declaration-declare [https://ourworldindata.org/what-does-a-famine-declaration-declare] 2. https://fews.net/ [https://fews.net/] 3. https://www.gjopen.com/questions/1559-will-the-un-declare-that-a-famine-exists-in-any-part-of-ethiopia-kenya-somalia-tanzania-or-uganda-in-2020 [https://www.gjopen.com/questions/1559-will-the-un-declare-that-a-famine-exists-in-any-part-of-ethiopia-kenya-somalia-tanzania-or-uganda-in-2020] (registration needed to see) It is not clear to me what an altruist who realizes that can do, as an individual: * A famine is likely to hit this region (but hasn't hit yet) * It is likely to be particularly bad. Donating to the World Food Programme, which is already doing work on the matter, might be a promising answer, but I haven't evaluated the programe, nor compared it to other potentially promising options (see here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/wpaZRoLFJy8DynwQN/the-best-places-to-donate-for-covid-19 [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/wpaZRoLFJy8DynwQN/the-best-places-to-donate-for-covid-19] , or https://www.againstmalaria.com/ [https://www.againstmalaria.com/]) * https://donatenow.wfp.org/wfp/~my-donation [https://donatenow.wfp.org/wfp/~my-donat
4willbradshaw7dINITIAL THOUGHTS ON ANTI-AGEING AND SOCIETAL RESILIENCE TO PANDEMICS [Epistemic status: fairly speculative. Practicing throwing out less-polished ideas as shortform. Might tidy up and promote this to a frontpage post in the future.] I'm hardly the first to note that COVID-19 is a disease of ageing: from the beginning of the outbreak it's been clear that older people were dramatically more likely to experience severe illness or die as a result of infection, while death rates among under-30s have been extremely low. In an important sense[1] [#fn-R9NH9hHBzfTHxuk6w-1], COVID-19 falls into the same category as cancer, heart disease, and dementia: a symptom of ageing, which is currently treated independently, but which in the longer term could be much more efficiently treated by tackling ageing itself[2] [#fn-R9NH9hHBzfTHxuk6w-2]. The same observation can be generalised to respiratory diseases more generally, and (less strongly) to infectious diseases as a whole. Seasonal influenza is overwhelmingly an affliction of older people, with >90% of fatalities occurring in individuals over 65. The original SARS outbreak showed a similar age-skewing to the current pandemic (though with higher CFRs across the board), with <1% mortality among cases under 24 years old and >55% mortality in over-65s. Case fatality rates in adults increase with age for ebola, tuberculosis, and most other disease you might want to check[3] [#fn-R9NH9hHBzfTHxuk6w-3]. As a general rule, if a disease is novel (i.e. there is no acquired immunity in the population), older adults[4] [#fn-R9NH9hHBzfTHxuk6w-4] who catch it will fare much worse[5] [#fn-R9NH9hHBzfTHxuk6w-5]. This isn't surprising: older people have weaker and less adaptable immune systems than young adults and show much higher general frailty. I'm interested in whether this phenomenon provides a good additional argument for anti-ageing research as a long-termist cause area. In general, the healthier and more robust the population is, the less
1MichaelA7dCOLLECTION [HTTPS://FORUM.EFFECTIVEALTRUISM.ORG/POSTS/6TRT8MTSKFQJJBFJA/POST-MORE-SUMMARIES-AND-COLLECTIONS] OF SOURCES RELATED TO DYSTOPIAS AND "ROBUST TOTALITARIANISM" The Precipice [https://theprecipice.com/] - Toby Ord (Chapter 5 has a full section on Dystopian Scenarios) The Totalitarian Threat - Bryan Caplan (a link to a Word doc version can be found on this page [http://econfaculty.gmu.edu/bcaplan/cv.html]) (some related discussion on the 80k podcast here [https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/bryan-caplan-case-for-and-against-education/#transcript] ; use the "find" function) The Centre for the Governance of AI’s research agenda [https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/GovAIAgenda.pdf] - Allan Dafoe (this contains discussion of "robust totalitarianism", and related matters) A shift in arguments for AI risk [https://fragile-credences.github.io/prioritising-ai/#robust-totalitarianism] - Tom Sittler (this has a brief but valuable section on robust totalitarianism) (discussion of the overall piece here [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/hubbRt4DPegiA5gRR/a-shift-in-arguments-for-ai-risk] ) Existential Risk Prevention as Global Priority [https://www.existential-risk.org/concept.html] - Nick Bostrom (this discusses the concepts of "permanent stagnation" and "flawed realisation", and very briefly touches on their relevance to e.g. lasting totalitarianism) I intend to add to this list over time. If you know of other relevant work, please mention it in a comment.
1Mati_Roy8dMind-readers as a neglected life extension strategy Last updated: 2020-03-30 Status: idea to integrate in a longer article Assuming that: * Death is bad * Lifelogging is a bet worth taking as a life extension strategy It seems like a potentially really important and neglected intervention is improving mind readers as this is by far the most important part of our experience that isn't / can't be captured at the moment. We don't actually need to be able to read the mind right now, just to be able to record the mind with sufficiently high resolution (plausibly along text and audio recording to be able to determine which brain patterns correspond to what kind of thoughts). Questions: * Assuming we had extremely good software, how much could we read minds with our current hardware? (ie. how much is it worth recording your thoughts right now?) * How inconvenient would it be? How much would it cost? To do: * Ask on Metaculus some operationalisation of the first question
0Mati_Roy8dNuke insurance Category: Intervention idea Epistemic status: speculative; arm-chair thinking; non-expert idea; unfleshed idea Proposal: Have nuclear powers insure each other that they won't nuke each other for mutually assure destruction (ie. destroying my infrastructure means you will destroy your economy). Not accepting an offered of mutual insurances should be seen as extremely hostile and uncooperative, and possible even be severely sanctioned internationally.

Sunday, March 29th 2020
Sun, Mar 29th 2020

Shortform
5MichaelA9dWHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE OFFENCE-DEFENCE BALANCE FOR TRAJECTORIES OF VIOLENCE? Questions: Is a change in the offence-defence balance [https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/How-Does-the-Offense-Defense-Balance-Scale-5-21-19.pdf] 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 comment to point me to it. Background/elaboration: Pinker argues in The Better Angels of Our Nature that many types of violence have declined considerably over history. I'm pretty sure he notes that these trends are neither obviously ephemeral nor inevitable. But the book, and other research pointing in similar directions, seems to me (and I believe others?) to at least weakly support the ideas that: * if we avoid an existential catastrophe, things will generally continue to get better * apart from the potential destabilising effects of technology, conflict seems to be trending downwards, somewhat reducing the risks of e.g. great power war, and by extension e.g. malicious use of AI (though of course a partial reduction in risks wouldn't necessarily mean we should ignore the risks) But How Does the Offense-Defense Balance Scale? [https://www.fhi.ox.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/How-Does-the-Offense-Defense-Balance-Scale-5-21-19.pdf] (by Garfinkel and Dafoe, of the Center for the Governance of AI; summary here [https://warontherocks.com/2019/12/artificial-intelligence-foresight-and-the-offense-defense-balance/] ) says: And: The paper tries to use these sorts of ideas to explore how emerging technologies will affect trajectories, likelihood, etc. of conflict. E.g., the very first sentence is: "The offense-defe

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