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Monday, April 19th 2021
Mon, Apr 19th 2021

Personal Blogposts
Shortform
3RationalityEnhancementGroup2dWe would like to draw your attention to a new conference on using methods from psychology and other behavioral sciences to understand and promote effective altruism. We invite you to submit an abstract for a talk, poster, or discussion session on a relevant topic by April 25. The inaugural Life Improvement Science conference [http://www.life-improvement.science] will be held online from June 9-13 2021. We invite short abstracts for talks, posters, symposia, and panel discussions on various topics relevant to understanding and promoting the effective pursuit of prosocial values, optimal personal development (moral learning and cognitive growth), and reducing unethical behavior. Please submit your abstract here [https://www.life-improvement.science/call-for-submissions]. The abstract submission deadline is April 25. Relevant topics include prosocial behavior and motivation, moral psychology, improving human decision-making and rationality, effective altruism, positive psychology, behavior change, (digital) interventions, character education, environmental psychology, political psychology, behavioral economics and public policy, wisdom scholarship, computational psychiatry, psychotherapy and coaching, intentional personality change, human-centered design and positive computing, cognitive augmentation, moral philosophy, virtues, value change, and other topics. Our confirmed speakers [https://www.life-improvement.science/speaker_info] include David Reinstein, William Fleeson, Ken Sheldon, Brian Little, Igor Grossman, Kristján Kristjánsson, and Kendall Bronk. If you would like to learn more about LIS and the upcoming LIS conference, you can check out our website [https://www.life-improvement.science/]. If you would like to stay up to date on Life Improvement Science and the LIS conference, you can sign up for the conference newsletter here [https://www.life-improvement.science/registration] or follow us on Twitter [https://twitter.com/LifeImprovSci] and we will keep
2Nathan_Barnard2dI think empirical claims can be discriminatory. I was struggling with how to think about this for a while, but I think I've come to two conclusions. The first way I think that empirical claims can be discrimory is if they express discriminatory claims with no evidence, and people refusing to change their beliefs based on evidence. I think the other way that they can be discriminatory is when talking about the definitions of socially constructed concepts where we can, in some sense and in some contexts, decide what is true.

Sunday, April 18th 2021
Sun, Apr 18th 2021

Shortform
11Khorton3dI regularly see people write arguments like "One day, we'll colonize the galaxy - this shows why working on the far future is so exciting!" I know the intuition this is trying to trigger is bigger = more impact = exciting opportunity. The intuition it actually triggers for me is expansion and colonization = trying to build an empire = I should be suspicious of these people and their plans.
7anonysaurus30k3dNB: I have my own little archive of EA content and I got an alert that several links popped up as dead - typically I would just add it to a task list and move on… but I was surprised to see Joe’ Rogan’s (full) interview with Will Macaskill in 2017 was no longer available on YouTube. So I investigated and found out Rogan recently sold his entire catalog [https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2021/04/06/joe-rogan-spotify-removing-shows/] and future episodes to Spotify (for $100 million!). Currently Spotify is removing episodes from other platforms like Apple, Youtube and Vimeo. They’ve also decided to not transfer certain episodes [https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2021/03/30/spotify-joe-rogan-episodes-removed/] that violate their platform’s rules on content (i.e. it’s controversial or offensive). I was a little alarmed that Will’s interview might be on the cut-list but alas it still exists on Spotify [https://open.spotify.com/episode/7KGozS19cvAfpv80ermY5q], but you now have to make a (free) account to access it.

Saturday, April 17th 2021
Sat, Apr 17th 2021

Shortform
5Harrison D5dEA (forum/community) and Kialo? TL;DR: I’m curious why there is so little mention of Kialo [https://www.kialo.com/] as a potential tool for hashing out disagreements in the EA forum/community, whereas I think it would be at least worth experimenting with. I’m considering writing a post on this topic, but want to get initial thoughts (e.g., have people already considered it and decided it wouldn’t be effective, initial impressions/concerns, better alternatives to Kialo) The forum and broader EA community has lots of competing ideas and even some direct disagreements. Will Bradshaw's recent comment [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/5iCsbrSqLyrfP55ry/concerns-with-ace-s-recent-behavior-1?commentId=iGD3xNKSyLK7Z8RHu] about discussing cancel culture on the EA forum is just the latest example of this that I’ve seen. I’ve often felt that the use of a platform like Kialo [https://www.kialo.com/] would be a much more efficient way of recording these disagreements, since it helps to separate out individual points of contention and allow for deep back-and-forth, among many other reasons. However, when I search for “Kialo” in the search bar on the forum, I only find a few minor comments mentioning it (as opposed to posts) and they are all at least 2 years old. I think I once saw a LessWrong post downplaying the platform, but I was wondering if people here have developed similar impressions. More to the point, I was curious to see if anyone had any initial thoughts on whether it would be worthwhile to write an article introducing Kialo and highlighting how it could be used to help hash out disagreements here/in the community? If so, do you have any initial objections/concerns that I should address? Do you know of any other alternatives that would be better options (keeping in mind that one of the major benefits of Kialo is its accessibility)?
3RogerAckroyd4dSometimes the concern is raised that caring about wild animal welfare is seen as unituitive and will bring conflict with the environmental movement. I do not think large-scale efforts to help wild animals should be an EA cause at the moment, but in the long-term I don't think environmentalist concerns will be a limiting factor. Rather, I think environmentalist concerns are partially taken as seriously as they are because people see it as helping wild animals as well. (In some perhaps not fully thought out way.) I do not think it is a coindince that the extinction of animals gets more press than the extinction of plants. I also note that bird-feeding is common and attracts little criticism from environmental groups. Indeed, during a cold spell this winter I saw recommendations from environmental groups to do it.

Thursday, April 15th 2021
Thu, Apr 15th 2021

Shortform
11evelynciara6dOn the difference between x-risks and x-risk factors I suspect there isn't much of a meaningful difference between "x-risks [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/existential-risk]" and "x-risk factors [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/existential-risk-factor]," for two reasons: 1. We can treat them the same in terms of probability theory. For example, ifX is an "x-risk" andYis a "risk factor" forX, thenPr(X∣Y)>Pr(X). But we can also say thatPr(Y∣X)>Pr(Y), because both statements are equivalent toPr(X,Y) >Pr(X)Pr(Y). We can similarly speak of the total probability of an x-risk factor because of the law of total probability [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_total_probability] (e.g.Pr(Y)=Pr(Y∣X1) +Pr(Y∣X2)+…) like we can with an x-risk. 2. Concretely, something can be both an x-risk and a risk factor. Climate change is often cited as an example: it could cause an existential catastrophe directly by making all of Earth unable to support complex societies, or indirectly by increasing humanity's vulnerability to other risks. Pandemics might also be an example, as a pandemic could either directly cause the collapse of civilization or expose humanity to other risks. I think the difference is that x-risks are events that directly cause an existential catastrophe, such as extinction or civilizational collapse, whereas x-risk factors are events that don't have a direct causal pathway to x-catastrophe. But it's possible that pretty much all x-risks are risk factors and vice versa. For example, suppose that humanity is already decimated by a global pandemic, and then a war causes the permanent collapse of civilization. We usually think of pandemics as risks and wars as risk factors, but in this scenario, the war is the x-risk because it happened last... right? One way to think about x-risks that avoids this problem is that x-risks can have both direct and indirect causal pathways to x-catastrophe.

Wednesday, April 14th 2021
Wed, Apr 14th 2021

Shortform
20Pablo7dScott Aaronson just published a post [https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=5448] announcing that he has won the ACM Prize in Computing and the $250k that come with it, and is asking for donation recommendations. He is particularly interested "in weird [charities] that I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. If I support their values, I’ll make a small donation from my prize winnings. Or a larger donation, especially if you donate yourself and challenge me to match." An extremely rough and oversimplified back-of-the-envelope calculation [https://www.getguesstimate.com/models/18118] suggests that a charity recommendation will cause, in expectation, ~$500 in donations to the recommended charity (~$70–2800 90% CI).
14evelynciara7d"Quality-adjusted civilization years" We should be able to compare global catastrophic risks in terms of the amount of time they make global civilization significantly worse and how much worse it gets. We might call this measure "quality-adjusted civilization years" (QACYs), or the quality-adjusted amount of civilization time that is lost. For example, let's say that the COVID-19 pandemic reduces the quality of civilization by 50% for 2 years. Then the QACY burden of COVID-19 is0.5×2=1 QACYs. Another example: suppose climate change will reduce the quality of civilization by 80% for 200 years, and then things will return to normal. Then the total QACY burden of climate change over the long term will be0.8×200=160QACYs. In the limit, an existential catastrophe would have a near-infinite QACY burden.
12MichaelA7dINDEPENDENT IMPRESSIONS Your independent impression about X is essentially what you'd believe about X if you weren't updating your beliefs in light of peer disagreement - i.e., if you weren't taking into account your knowledge about what other people believe and how trustworthy their judgement seems on this topic relative to yours. Your independent impression can take into account the reasons those people have for their beliefs (inasmuch as you know those reasons), but not the mere fact that they believe what they believe. Armed with this concept, I try to stick to the following epistemic/discussion norms [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/discussion-norms], and think it's good for other people to do so as well: * Trying to keep track of my own independent impressions separately from my all-things-considered beliefs (which also takes into account peer disagreement) * Trying to be clear about whether I'm reporting my independent impression or my all-things-considered belief * Feeling comfortable reporting my own independent impression, even when I know it differs from the impressions of people with more expertise in a topic One rationale for that bundle of norms is to avoid information cascades [https://www.lesswrong.com/tag/information-cascades]. In contrast, when I actually make decisions, I try to make them based on my all-things-considered beliefs. For example, my independent impression is that it's plausible that a stable, global authoritarian regime [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/EMKf4Gyee7BsY2RP8/michaela-s-shortform?commentId=WPsC97MBY2qu5vHWy] , or some other unrecoverable dystopia [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/dystopia], is more likely than extinction, and that we should prioritise those risks more than we currently do. But I think that this opinion is probably uncommon among people who've thought a lot about existential risks [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/AJbZ2hHR4bmeZKznG/venn-diagrams-of-exist

Tuesday, April 13th 2021
Tue, Apr 13th 2021

Shortform
1Tankrede8dThe definition of existential risk as ‘humanity losing its long term potential’ in Toby Ord precipice [https://theprecipice.com/] could be specified further. Without (perhaps) loss of generality, assuming finite total value [https://philpapers.org/archive/MANWIT-6.pdf] in our universe, one could specify existential risks into two broad categories of risks such as: * Extinction risks (X-risks): Human share of total value goes to zero. Examples could be extinction from pandemics, extreme climate change or some natural event. * Agential risks (A-risks): Human share of total value could be greater than in the X-risks scenarios but keeps being strictly dominated by the share of total value holded by misaligned agents. Examples could be misaligned institutions, AIs or loud aliens [https://arxiv.org/abs/2102.01522?source=techstories.org] controlling most of the value in the universe and with whom there would be little gain from trade to be hoped for.

Monday, April 12th 2021
Mon, Apr 12th 2021

Shortform
6MichaelA9dBottom line up front: I think it'd be best for longtermists to default to using more inclusive term “authoritarianism” rather than "totalitarianism", except when a person really has a specific reason to focus on totalitarianism [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/totalitarianism/] specifically. I have the impression that EAs/longtermists have often focused more on "totalitarianism" than on "authoritarianism", or have used the terms as if they were somewhat interchangeable. (E.g., I think I did both of those things myself in the past.) But my understanding is that political scientists typically consider totalitarianism to be a relatively extreme subtype of authoritarianism (see, e.g., Wikipedia [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Totalitarianism]). And it’s not obvious to me that, from a longtermist perspective, totalitarianism is a bigger issue than other types of authoritarian regime. (Essentially, I’d guess that totalitarianism would have worse effects than other types of authoritarianism, but that it’s less likely to arise in the first place.) To provide a bit more of a sense of what I mean and why I say this, here's a relevant section of a research agenda I recently drafted: * Longtermism-relevant typology and harms of authoritarianism * What is the most useful way for longtermists to carve up the space of possible types of authoritarian political systems (or perhaps political systems more broadly, or political systems other than full liberal democracies)? What terms should we be using? * Which types of authoritarian political system should we be most concerned about? * What are the main ways in which each type of authoritarian political system could reduce (or increase) the expected value of the long-term future? * What are the main pathways by which each type of authoritarian political system could reduce (or increase) the expected value of the long-term future? * E.g., increasing
2ag40009dI was planning to donate some money to a climate cause a few months ago, and I decide to give some money to Giving Green (this was after the post here recommending GG). There were some problems with the money going through (unrelated to GG), but anyways now I can still decide to send the money elsewhere. I'm thinking about giving the money elsewhere due to the big post criticizing GG. However, I still think it's probably a good giving opportunity, given that it's at an important stage of its growth and seems to have gotten a lot of publicity. Should I consider giving someplace else and doing more research, or should I keep the plan of giving it to GG? (Sorry if this is vague -- let me know if I can fill in any details!)

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