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Friday, December 3rd 2021
Fri, Dec 3rd 2021

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8tessa18hWhile making several of review crossposts [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/review-crosspost] for the Decade Review [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/jB7Ten8qmDszRMTho/effective-altruism-the-first-decade-forum-review] I found myself unhappy about the possibility that someone might think I had authored one of the posts I was cross-linking. Here are the things I ended up doing: 1. Make each post a link post (this one seems... non-optional). 2. In the title of the post, add the author / blog / organization's name before the post title, separated by an en-dash. * Why before the title? This ensures that the credit appears even if the title is long and gets cut off. * Why an en-dash? Some of the posts I was linking already included colons in the title. "Evidence Action – We’re Shutting Down No Lean Season, Our Seasonal Migration Program: Here’s Why" seemed easier to parse than "Evidence Action: We’re Shutting Down No Lean Season, Our Seasonal Migration Program: Here’s Why". * Other approaches I've seen: using colons, including the author's name at the end of the post in brackets, e.g. Purchase fuzzies and utilons separately (Eliezer Yudkowsky) [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/EcCW8L7ej47sCgo4k/purchase-fuzzies-and-utilons-separately-eliezer-yudkowsky] , using "on" instead of an en-dash, e.g. Kelsey Piper on "The Life You Can Save" [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/DGKgpjSs6f9fZQKqm/kelsey-piper-on-the-life-you-can-save] , which seems correct when excerpting rather than cross-posting. 3. Add an italicized header to the cross-post indicating up-front that the post is a cross-post and, where appropriate, adding a link to the author's EA Forum account. * Example: Because of the ongoing Decade Review [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/jB7Ten8qmDszRMTho/effective-altruism-the-first-decade-forum-review]

Thursday, December 2nd 2021
Thu, Dec 2nd 2021

Shortform
1Samuel Shadrach2dI have voted for two posts in the decadal review prelim thingie. https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/FvbTKrEQWXwN5A6Tb/a-happiness-manifesto-why-and-how-effective-altruism-should [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/FvbTKrEQWXwN5A6Tb/a-happiness-manifesto-why-and-how-effective-altruism-should] 9 votes https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/hkimyETEo76hJ6NpW/on-caring [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/hkimyETEo76hJ6NpW/on-caring] 4 votes Seems to me like perspectives I strongly agree with, but not everyone in the EA community does.
1TianyiQ2dOne doubt on superrationality: (I guess similar discussions must have happened elsewhere, but I can't find them. I am new to decision theory and superrationality, so my thinking may very well be wrong.) First I present an inaccruate summary of what I want to say, to give a rough idea: * The claim that "if I choose to do X, then my identical counterpart will also do X" seems to (don't necessarily though; see the example for details) imply there is no free will. But if we in deed assume determinism, then no decision theory is practically meaningful. Then I shall elaborate with an example: * Two AIs with identical source codes, Alice and Bob, are engaging in a prisoner's dillema. * Let's first assume they have no "free will", i.e. their programs are completely deterministic. * Suppose that Alice defects, then Bob also defects, due to their identical source code. * Now, we can vaguely imagine a world in which Alice had cooperated, and then Bob would also cooperate, resulting in a better outcome. * But that vaguely imagined world is not coherent, as it's just impossible that, given the way her source code was written, Alice had cooperated. * Therefore, it's practically meaningless to say "It would be better for Alice to cooperate". * What if we assume they have free will, i.e. they each have a source of randomness, feeding random numbers into their programs as input? * If the two sources of randomness are completely independent, then decisions of Alice and Bob are also independent. Therefore, to Alice, an input that leads her to defect is always better than an input that leads her to cooperate - under both CDT and EDT. * If, on the other hand, the two sources are somehow correlated, then it might in deed be better for Alice to receive an input that leads her to cooperate. This is the only case in which superrationality is practically meaningful
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Wiki/Tag Page Edits and Discussion

Wednesday, December 1st 2021
Wed, Dec 1st 2021

Frontpage Posts
Personal Blogposts
[Event]80,000 hoursStudents Union, Glossop Road, SheffieldDec 2nd
0
Shortform
10Linch2dWhat are the best arguments for/against the hypothesis that (with ML) slightly superhuman unaligned systems can't recursively self-improve without solving large chunks of the alignment problem? Like naively, the primary way that we make stronger ML agents is via training a new agent, and I expect this to be true up to the weakly superhuman regime (conditional upon us still doing ML). Here's the toy example I'm thinking of, at the risk of anthromorphizing too much:Suppose I'm Clippy von Neumann, an ML-trained agent marginally smarter than all humans, but nowhere near stratospheric. I want to turn the universe into paperclips, and I'm worried that those pesky humans will get in my way (eg by creating a stronger AGI, which will probably have different goals because of the orthogonality thesis). I have several tools at my disposal: * Try to invent ingenious mad science stuff to directly kill humans/take over the world * But this is too slow, another AGI might be trained before I can do this * Copy myself a bunch, as much as I can, try to take over the world with many copies. * Maybe too slow? Also might be hard to get enough resources to make more copies * Try to persuade my human handlers to give me enough power to take over the world * Still might be too slow * Recursive self-improvement? * But how do I do that? * 1. I can try self-modification enough to be powerful and smart. * I can get more compute * But this only helps me so much * I can try for algorithmic improvements * But if I'm just a bunch of numbers in a neural net, this entails doing brain surgery via changing my own weights without accidentally messing up my utility function, and this just seems really hard. * (But of course this is an empirical question, maybe some AI risk people thinks this is only slightly superhuman, or even
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2HaukeHillebrandt2dI watched Bill Gates Netflix documentary and wrote down some rough critical thoughts [https://docs.google.com/document/d/1IlD9nvzdsn4KaAqjMLzzS9OWHCN7KApLryUqZVkiSGY/edit#]
2HaukeHillebrandt2dLikelihood of nuclear winter Two recent 80k podcasts [1 [https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/luisa-rodriguez-why-global-catastrophes-seem-unlikely-to-kill-us-all/] , 2 [https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/david-denkenberger-sahil-shah-using-paper-mills-and-seaweed-in-catastrophes/] ] deal with nuclear winter (EA wiki link [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/nuclear-winter]). One episode discusses bias in nuclear winter research (link to section in transcript [https://80000hours.org/podcast/episodes/luisa-rodriguez-why-global-catastrophes-seem-unlikely-to-kill-us-all/#:~:text=the%20extinction%20level.-,Rob%20Wiblin%3A%20How%20much,you%20get%20some%20fish%20%E2%80%94,-Luisa%20Rodriguez%3A%20Yeah] ). The modern case for nuclear winter is based on modelling by Robock, Toon, et al. (e.g. see them being acknowledged here [http://doi.org/10.5194/acp-13-9713-2013]). Some researchers have criticized them, suggesting the nuclear winter hypothesis is implausible and that the research is biased and has been instrumentalized for political reasons (e.g. paper [http://doi.org/10.1038/475037b], paper [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/14682745.2012.759560], citation trail [https://scholar.google.com/scholar?cites=17243247127444473565&as_sdt=2005&sciodt=0,5&hl=en] of recent modelling work out of Los Alamos National Labs [http://doi.org/10.1029/2019JD031281], which couldn’t replicate the nuclear winter effect). One recent paper summarizes the disagreements between the different modelling camps. [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/25751654.2021.1882772] Another paper suggests that nuclear war might also damage the ozone layer [https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2021JD035079].
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Wiki/Tag Page Edits and Discussion

Tuesday, November 30th 2021
Tue, Nov 30th 2021

Shortform
4evelynciara3dPossible outline for a 2-3 part documentary adaptation of The Precipice: Part 1: Introduction & Natural Risks * Introduce the idea that we are in a time of unprecedented existential risk, but that the future could be very good (Introduction and Chapter 1) * Discuss natural risks (Chapter 3) * Argue that man-made risks are greater and use this to lead to the next episode (Chapter 3) Part 2: Human-Made Risks * Well-known anthropogenic risks - nuclear war, climate change, other environmental damage (Chapter 4) * Emerging technological risks - pandemics, AI, dystopia (Chapter 5) * Existential risk and security factors (Chapter 6) Part 3: What We Can Do * Discuss actions society can take to minimize its existential risk (Chapter 7) What this leaves out: * Chapter 2 - mostly a discussion of the moral arguments for x-risk's importance. Can assume that the audience will already care about x-risk at a less sophisticated level, and focus on making the case that x-risk is high and we sort of know what to do about it. * The discussion of joint probabilities of x-risks in Chapter 6 - too technical for a general audience Another way to do it would be to do an episode on each type of risk and what can be done about it, for example: * Part 1: Introduction * Part 2: Pandemic risk (timely because of COVID-19) * Part 3: Risks from asteroids, comets, volcanoes, and supernovas * Part 4: Climate change * Part 5: Artificial intelligence * and so on Like the original book, I'd want the tone of the documentary to be authoritative and hopeful and not lean on fear.
2evelynciara3dSome links about the alleged human male fertility crisis - it's been suggested that this may lead to population decline, but a 2021 study has pointed out flaws in the research claiming a decline in sperm count: * Male fertility is declining – studies show that environmental toxins could be a reason [https://theconversation.com/male-fertility-is-declining-studies-show-that-environmental-toxins-could-be-a-reason-163795] (The Conversation, 2021) * The Sperm-Count ‘Crisis’ Doesn’t Add Up [https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/04/health/sperm-fertility-reproduction-crisis.html] (New York Times, 2021) * Study aims to quell fears over falling human sperm count [https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2021/05/fears-over-falling-human-sperm-count-may-be-overblown/] (Harvard Gazette, 2021)
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Wiki/Tag Page Edits and Discussion

Monday, November 29th 2021
Mon, Nov 29th 2021

Frontpage Posts
Shortform
9Kaleem4dDoes anyone have any leads on cost-effectiveness in the climate change space? I think the last SoGive article on this is Sanjay's from 2020 - is there anything newer/better than that post?
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9Jamie_Harris4dHow did Nick Bostrom come up with the "Simulation argument"*? Below is an answer Bostrom gave in 2008 [https://www.simulation-argument.com/faq.html]. (Though note, Pablo shares a comment below that Bostrom might be misremembering this, and he may have taken the idea from Hans Moravec.) "In my doctoral work, I had studied so-called self-locating beliefs and developed the first mathematical theory of observation selection effects, which affects such beliefs. I had also for many years been thinking a lot about future technological capabilities and their possible impacts on humanity. If one combines these two areas – observation selection theory and the study of future technological capacities – then the simulation argument is only one small inferential step away. Before the idea was developed in its final form, I had for a couple of years been running a rudimentary version of it past colleagues at coffee breaks during conferences. Typically, the response would be “yeah, that is kind of interesting” and then the conversation would drift to other topics without anything having been resolved. I was on my way to the gym one evening and was again pondering the argument when it dawned on me that it was more than just coffee-break material and that it could be developed in a more rigorous form. By the time I had finished the physical workout, I had also worked out the essential structure of the argument (which is actually very simple). I went to my office and wrote it up. (Are there any lessons in this? That new ideas often spring from the combining of two different areas or cognitive structures, which one has previously mastered at sufficiently a deep level, is a commonplace. But an additional possible moral, which may not be as widely appreciated, is that even when we do vaguely realize something, the breakthrough often eludes us because we fail to take the idea seriously enough.)" Context for this post: * I'm doing some research on "A History of Robot Rights Rese
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Sunday, November 28th 2021
Sun, Nov 28th 2021

Shortform
10Aaron_Scher5dProgressives might be turned off by the phrasing of EA as "helping others." Here's my understanding of why. Speaking anecdotally from my ongoing experience as a college student in the US, mutual aid is getting tons of support among progressives these days. Mutual aid involves members of a community asking for assistance (often monetary) from their community, and the community helping out. This is viewed as a reciprocal relationship in which different people will need help with different things and at different times from one another, so you help out when you can and you ask for assistance when you need it; it is also reciprocal because benefiting the community is inherently benefiting oneself. This model implies a level field of power among everybody in the community. Unlike charity, mutual aid relies on social relations and being in community to fight institutional and societal structures of oppression ( https://ssw.uga.edu/news/article/what-is-mutual-aid-by-joel-izlar/ [https://ssw.uga.edu/news/article/what-is-mutual-aid-by-joel-izlar/]). "[Mutual Aid Funds] aim to create permanent systems of support and self-determination, whereas charity creates a relationship of dependency that fails to solve more permanent structural problems. Through mutual aid networks, everyone in a community can contribute their strengths, even the most vulnerable. Charity maintains the same relationships of power, while mutual aid is a system of reciprocal support." ( https://williamsrecord.com/376583/opinions/mutual-aid-solidarity-not-charity/ [https://williamsrecord.com/376583/opinions/mutual-aid-solidarity-not-charity/] ). Within this framework, the idea of "helping people" often relies on people with power aiding the helpless, but doing so in a way that reinforces power difference. To help somebody is to imply that they are lesser and in need of help, rather than an equal community member who is particularly hurt by the system right now. This idea also reminds people of the White Ma
3ArchivalLara5dIt seems useful to get more familiar with the motivation behind notbeing convincedby effective altruism (or indeed, any kind of altruism). One way of doing this is by looking at the rational arguments against it. Another one is to look at the emotional states or irrational biases that lead people to dismiss it without even having thought about it. One of the more frequent emotional states, in my opinion, seems to be “resignation” (or “fatalism”). No one thinks of themselves as resigned or fatalist. And it would probably not go down very well with another person to describe them as such without clarifying anything. A definition: resigned or fatalistic people feel their influence to be disproportionately small - and because of this assessment- reject any moral responsibility. Resigned people may well think that there are more ethically correct actions than others (or at least, that we should designate some actions as more ethically correct actions than others). But they consider this distinction irrelevant when it comes to judging their own actions. Some causes for this state could be: 1 ECONOMICAL (DIS-)ADVANTAGE: "FIRST COMES THE FOOD, THEN COMES MORALITY" Our priorities influence our behaviour. These priorities develop during a long evolutionary, but also during a - somewhat shorter - personal past. Those who are disadvantaged have to concentrate on survival. One must be able to afford moral standards. However, those who know what it is like to be disadvantaged are plausibly more likely to take action to prevent others from feeling the same way. Affected people are plausibly more empathetic with other disadvantaged people and are therefore more aware of how much suffering there is to prevent. However, such increased empathy does not necessarily protect against the feeling that one has no influence on the world. On the contrary, economic restrictions, for example, can reinforce a feeling of powerlessness. On the one hand, because in such a predicament one often an
Wiki/Tag Page Edits and Discussion

Saturday, November 27th 2021
Sat, Nov 27th 2021

Personal Blogposts
[Event]LunchföreläsningLägerhyddsvägen 1, UppsalaNov 29th
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[Event]EAHK Picnic @ Kai Tai Cruise Terminal ParkKai Tak Cruise Terminal, Kai Tak, Hong KongDec 4th
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[Event]Friday LunchUniversity of Chicago, 5706 South University Avenue, ChicagoDec 3rd
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[Event]EA Bristol presents: Charity DiscussionGloucester Road, Bishopston, Bristol BS7 8AE, United KingdomDec 2nd
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[Event]Friday LunchUniversity of Chicago, 5706 South University Avenue, ChicagoDec 10th
0
Shortform
1quinn7dDon't Look Up [https://www.meetup.com/eaphiladelphia/events/282336341/] might be one of the best mainstream movies for the xrisk movement. Eliezer said it's too on the nose to bare/warrant actually watching. I fully expect to write a review for EA Forum and lesswrong about xrisk movement building.
Wiki/Tag Page Edits and Discussion

Friday, November 26th 2021
Fri, Nov 26th 2021

Shortform
9quinn7dCC'd to lesswrong.com/shortform POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE LONGTERMISM I'm not aware of a literature or a dialogue on what I think is a very crucial divide in longtermism. In this shortform, I'm going to take a polarity approach. I'm going to bring each pole to it's extreme, probably each beyond positions that are actually held, because I think median longtermism or the longtermism described in the Precipice is a kind of average of the two. Negative longtermism is saying "let's not let some bad stuff happen", namely extinction. It wants to preserve. If nothing gets better for the poor or the animals or the astronauts, but we dodge extinction and revolution-erasing subextinction events, that's a win for negative longtermism. In positive longtermism, such a scenario is considered a loss. From an opportunity cost perspective, the failure to erase suffering or bring to agency and prosperity to 1e1000 comets and planets hurts literally as bad as extinction. Negative longtermism is a vision of what shouldn't happen. Positive longtermism is a vision of what should happen. My model of Ord says we should lean at least 75% toward positive longtermism, but I don't think he's an extremist. I'm uncertain if my model of Ord would even subscribe to the formation of this positive and negative axis. What does this axis mean? I wrote a little about this earlier this year [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/c4B45PGxCgY7CEMXr/what-am-i-fighting-for]. I think figuring out what projects you're working on and who you're teaming up with strongly depends on how you feel about negative vs. positive longtermism. The two dispositions toward myopic coalitions are "do" and "don't". I won't attempt to claim which disposition is more rational or desirable, but explore each branch When Alice wants future X and Bob wants future Y, but if they don't defeat the adversary Adam they will be stuck with future 0 (containing great disvalue), Alice and Bob may set aside their differences and choose form a m
7quinn7dCW death I'm imagining myself having a 6+ figure net worth at some point in a few years, and I don't know anything about how wills work. Do EAs have hit-by-a-bus contingency plans for their net worths? Is there something easy we can do to reduce the friction of the following process: Ask five EAs with trustworthy beliefs and values to form a grantmaking panel in the event of my death. This grantmaking panel could meet for thirty minutes and make a weight allocation decision on the giving what we can app, or they can accept applications and run it that way, or they can make an investment decision that will interpret my net worth as seed money for an ongoing fund; it would be up to them. I'm assuming this is completely possible in principle: I solicit those five EAs who have no responsibilities or obligations as long as I'm alive, if they agree I get a lawyer to write up a will that describes everything. If one EA has done this, the "template contract" would be available to other EAs to repeat it. Would it be worth lowering the friction of making this happen? Related idea: I can hardcode weight assignment for the giving what we can app into my will, surely a non-EA will-writing lawyer could wrap their head around this quickly. But is there a way to not have to solicit the lawyer every time I want to update my weights, in response to my beliefs and values changing while I'm alive? It sounds at the face of it that the second idea is lower friction and almost as valuable as the first idea for most individuals.

Thursday, November 25th 2021
Thu, Nov 25th 2021

Shortform
6willbradshaw8dBE CONCRETE AND SPECIFIC WITH YOUR IMPOSTOR SYNDROME I sometimes have pretty bad impostor syndrome, in part because I'm often not as productive as I'd like to be. In these situations, I often find it helpful to step back and think carefully about what, precisely, I think other people are doing successfully that I'm not. Surprisingly often, the result is a relatively constrained list of concrete things I can work on – e.g. looking for a review article to fill a critical knowledge gap, or brainstorming for a few minutes on systems to prevent a certain failure mode. They're certainly not perfect solutions – I doubt I'll get from me to Jeff Bezos this way – but it's generally a hell of a lot more useful than generalist moping. Ideally we could tell people "don't have impostor syndrome" and they'd stop, but I doubt that will be very effective. "Be as specific and concrete as possible about what makes you feel like an impostor" might be more tractable, while still getting you a pretty decent benefit.
1Samuel Shadrach8dAnyone here wanna suggest me a good static site generator for my blog? I can write code if I absolutely have to, but would prefer a solution that requires less effort, as I'm not a web dev specifically. Don't want something clunky like wordpress, I like gwern.net's philosophy of not locking into one platform. I used pandoc markdown it seems cool. Literally the main thing keeping me from next step in my EA career that I'm procrastinating on (make blog -> post ideas and work -> apply for summer internship)
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1Samuel Shadrach8dRandom idea: Social media platform where you are allowed to "enter" a finite number of discussion threads per day. Threads can only be read if you enter them, until then you just see the top-level discussion. The restriction can be hard-coded or enforced indirectly via social norms (like you are supposed to introduce yourself when you enter a thread). Basically explores how public discussion could transition to semi-private. Right now it's usually public versus (or transitioning to) fully private between a tiny number of people. But semi-private is what happens irl.

Wednesday, November 24th 2021
Wed, Nov 24th 2021

Shortform
5ludwigbald9dIs anyone working on summarizing the new German coalition agreement from an EA perspective? Otherwise I'll do it soon™. I'm happy to take advice here!
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Wiki/Tag Page Edits and Discussion

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