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Week Of Sunday, February 9th 2020
Week Of Sun, Feb 9th 2020

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22Max_Daniel3d[Is longtermism bottlenecked by "great people"?] Someone very influential in EA recently claimed in conversation with me that there are many tasks X such that (i) we currently don't have anyone in the EA community who can do X, (ii) the bottleneck for this isn't credentials or experience or knowledge but person-internal talent, and (iii) it would be very valuable (specifically from a longtermist point of view) if we could do X. And that therefore what we most need in EA are more "great people". I find this extremely dubious. (In fact, it seems so crazy to me that it seems more likely than not that I significantly misunderstood the person who I think made these claims.) The first claim is of course vacuously true if, for X, we choose some ~impossible task such as "experience a utility-monster amount of pleasure" or "come up with a blueprint for how to build safe AGI that is convincing to benign actors able to execute it". But of course more great people don't help with solving impossible tasks. Given the size and talent distribution of the EA community my guess is that for most apparent X, the issue either is that (a) X is ~impossible, or (b) there are people in EA who could do X, but the relevant actors cannot identify them, (c) acquiring the ability to do X is costly (e.g. perhaps you need time to acquire domain-specific expertise), even for maximally talented "great people", and the relevant actors either are unable to help pay that cost (e.g. by training people themselves, or giving them the resources to allow them to get training elsewhere) or make a mistake by not doing so. My best guess for the genesis of the "we need more great people" perspective: Suppose I talk a lot to people at an organization that thinks there's a decent chance we'll develop transformative AI soon but it will go badly, and that as a consequence tries to grow as fast as possible to pursue various ambitious activities which they think reduces that risk. If these activities are scalable
4EdoArad8dMIT has a new master's program on Development Economics. [] It is taught by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, the recent Nobel Laureates. Seems cool :)
1evelynciara6dA social constructivist perspective on long-term AI policy I think the case for addressing the long-term consequences of AI systems holds even if AGI is unlikely to arise. The future of AI development will be shaped by social, economic and political factors, and I'm not convinced that AGI will be desirable in the future or that AI is necessarily progressing toward AGI. However, (1) AI already has large positive and negative effects on society, and (2) I think it's very likely that society's AI capabilities will improve over time, amplifying these effects and creating new benefits and risks in the future.
1Ramiro6dDoes anyone know or have a serious opinion / analysis on the European campaign to tax meat? I read some news at Le Monde, but nothing EA-level seriousness. I mean, it seems a pretty good idea, but I saw no data on possible impact, probability of adoption, possible ways to contribute, or even possible side-effects? (not the best comparison, but worth noting: in Brazil a surge in meat prices caused an inflation peak in december and corroded the governement's support - yeah, people can tolerate politicians meddling with criminals and fascism, as long as they can have barbecue)
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Week Of Sunday, February 2nd 2020
Week Of Sun, Feb 2nd 2020

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8Aaron Gertler11dAnother brief note on usernames: Epistemic status: Moderately confident that this is mildly valuable It's totally fine to use a pseudonym on the Forum. However, if you chose a pseudonym for a reason other than "I actively want to not be identifiable" (e.g. "I copied over my Reddit username without giving it too much thought"), I recommend using your real name on the Forum. If you want to change your name, just PM or email me ( with your current username and the one you'd like to use. Reasons to do this: * Real names make easier for someone to track your writing/ideas across multiple platforms ("where have I seen this name before? Oh, yeah! I had a good Facebook exchange with them last year.") * There's a higher chance that people will recognize you at meetups, conferences, etc. This leads to more good conversations! * Aesthetically, I think it's nice if the Forum feels like an extension of the real world where people discuss ways to improve that world. Real names help with that. * "Joe, Sarah, and Vijay are discussing how to run a good conference" has a different feel than "fluttershy_forever, UtilityMonster, and AnonymousEA64 are discussing how to run a good conference". Some of these reasons won't apply if you have a well-known pseudonym you've used for a while, but I still think using a real name is worth considering.
7evelynciara12dI think improving bus systems in the United States [] (and probably other countries) could be a plausible Cause X. Importance: Improving bus service would: * Increase economic output in cities * Dramatically improve quality of life for low-income residents * Reduce cities' carbon footprint, air pollution, and traffic congestion Neglectedness: City buses probably don't get much attention because most people don't think very highly of them, and focus much more on novel transportation technologies like electric vehicles. Tractability: According to Higashide, improving bus systems is a matter of improving how the bus systems are governed. Right now, I think a nationwide movement to improve bus transit would be less polarizing than the YIMBY movement has been. While YIMBYism has earned a reputation as elitist due to some of its early advocates' mistakes, a pro-bus movement could be seen as aligned with the interests of low-income city dwellers provided that it gets the messaging right from the beginning. Also, bus systems are less costly to roll out, upgrade, and alter than other public transportation options like trains.
5Nathan Young13dDoes anyone know people working on reforming the academic publishing process? Coronavirus has caused journalists to look for scientific sources. There are no journal articles because of the lag time. So they have gone to preprint servers like bioRxiv (pronounced bio-archive). These servers are not peer reviewed so some articles are of low quality. So people have gone to twitter asking for experts to review the papers. [] This is effectively a new academic publishing paradigm. If there were support for good papers (somehow) you would have the key elements of a new, perhaps better system. Some thoughts here too: [] With Coronavirus providing a lot of impetus for change, those working in this area could find this an important time to increase visibility of their work.
4brandonperez14dPlease vote for Malaria Consortium. Tab for a Cause is a browser extension that donates hearts to charity for every new tab opened while you surf the internet. It's totally free and legitimate. In 2019, Tab for a Cause raised over $185,000 for nonprofits around the world, and over $50,000 of that was given to the 9 different charities chosen by Tabbers during our monthly Charity Spotlights. They are holding a vote on reddit to see what charities will be included this year and Malaria Consortium is in the running! This is a wonderful opportunity. It would be nice if you guys could reference this post in other EA groups, facebook, twitter, etc. It's really an effort-free way to advocate the vote for Malaria Consortium. Please vote for Malaria Consortium and spread the word. Tab 4 a cause is legitimate. You can read all about how it works here: And you can install the extension on your browser here: []
3Aaron Gertler11dBrief note on usernames: Epistemic status: Kidding around, but also serious If you want to create an account without using your name, I recommend choosing a distinctive username that people can easily refer to, rather than some variant on "anonymous_user". Among usernames with 50+ karma on the Forum, we have: * AnonymousEAForumAccount * anonymous_ea * anonymousthrowaway * anonymoose I'm pretty sure I've seen at least one comment back-and-forth between two accounts with this kind of name. It's a bit much :-P

Week Of Sunday, January 26th 2020
Week Of Sun, Jan 26th 2020

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16Linch18dcross-posted from Facebook. Reading Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith's new book has made me somewhat more skeptical about Open Borders (from a high prior belief in its value). Before reading the book, I was already aware of the core arguments (eg, Michael Huemer's right to immigrate, basic cosmopolitanism, some vague economic stuff about doubling GDP). I was hoping the book will have more arguments, or stronger versions of the arguments I'm familiar with. It mostly did not. The book did convince me that the prima facie case for open borders was stronger than I thought. In particular, the section where he argued that a bunch of different normative ethical theories should all-else-equal lead to open borders was moderately convincing. I think it will have updated me towards open borders if I believed in stronger "weight all mainstream ethical theories equally" moral uncertainty, or if I previously had a strong belief in a moral theory that I previously believed was against open borders. However, I already fairly strongly subscribe to cosmopolitan utilitarianism and see no problem with aggregating utility across borders. Most of my concerns with open borders are related to Chesterton's fence, and Caplan's counterarguments were in three forms: 1. Doubling GDP is so massive that it should override any conservativism prior. 2. The US historically had Open Borders (pre-1900) and it did fine. 3. On the margin, increasing immigration in all the American data Caplan looked at didn't seem to have catastrophic cultural/institutional effects that naysayers claim. I find this insufficiently persuasive. ___ Let me outline the strongest case I'm aware of against open borders: Countries are mostly not rich and stable because of the physical resources, or because of the arbitrary nature of national boundaries. They're rich because of institutions and good governance. (I think this is a fairly mainstream belief among political economists). These institutions are, again, ev
9RyanCarey21dPossible EA intervention: just like the EA Forum Prizes, but for the best Tweets (from an EA point-of-view) in a given time window. Reasons this might be better than the EA Forum Prize: 1) Popular tweets have greater reach than popular forum posts, so this could promote EA more effectively 2) The prizes could go to EAs who are not regular forum users, which could also help to promote EA more effectively. One would have to check the rules [] and regulations.
8evelynciara20dWe're probably surveilling poor and vulnerable people in developing and developed countries too much in the name of aiding them, and we should give stronger consideration to the privacy rights of aid recipients. Personal data about these people collected for benign purposes can be weaponized against them by malicious actors, and surveillance itself can deter people from accessing vital services. "Stop Surveillance Humanitarianism" by Mark Latonero [] Automating Inequality by Virginia Eubanks makes a similar argument regarding aid recipients in developed countries.
3evelynciara16dJoan Gass (2019) [] recommends four areas of international development to focus on: * New modalities to foster economic productivity * New modalities or ways to develop state capabilities * Global catastrophic risks, particularly pandemic preparedness * Meta EA research on cause prioritization within global development Improving state capabilities, or governments' ability to render public services, seems especially promising for public-interest technologists interested in development (ICT4D). For example, the Zenysis platform []helps developing-world governments make data-driven decisions, especially in healthcare. Biorisk management also looks promising from a tech standpoint.
2JP Addison18dWe've been experiencing intermittent outages recently. Multiple possible causes and fixes have not turned out to fix it, so we're still working on it. If you see an error saying: "503 Service Unavailable: No healthy endpoints to handle the request. [...]" Try refreshing, or waiting 30 seconds and then refreshing; they're very transient errors. Our apologies for the disruption.
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