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Friday, January 17th 2020
Fri, Jan 17th 2020

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7Linch2d I find the unilateralist’s curse [https://www.nickbostrom.com/papers/unilateralist.pdf] a particularly valuable concept to think about. However, I now worry that “unilateralist” is an easy label to tack on, and whether a particular action is unilateralist or not is susceptible to small changes in framing. Consider the following hypothetical situations: 1. Company policy vs. team discretion 2. Alice is a researcher in a team of scientists at a large biomedical company. While working on the development of an HIV vaccine, the team accidentally created an air-transmissible variant of HIV. The scientists must decide whether to publish their discovery with the rest of the company, knowing that leaks may exist, and the knowledge may be used to create a devastating biological weapon, but also that it could help those who hope to develop defenses against such weapons, including other teams within the same company. Most of the team thinks they should keep it quiet, but company policy is strict that such information must be shared with the rest of the company to maintain the culture of open collaboration. Alice thinks the rest of the team should either share this information or quit. Eventually, she tells her skip manager her concerns, who relayed it to the rest of the company in a company-open document. Alice does not know if this information ever leaked past the company. 3. Stan and the bomb 4. Stan is an officer in charge of overseeing a new early warning system intended to detect (nuclear) intercontinental ballistic missiles from an enemy country. A warning system appeared to have detected five missiles heading towards his homeland, quickly going through 30 early layers of verification. Stan suspects this is a false alarm, but is not sure. Military instructions are clear that such warnings must immediately be relayed upwards.Stan decided not to relay the message to his superiors, on the g
4Ramiro2d Philosophers and economists seem to disagree about the marginalist/arbitrage argument [https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/economics-econometrics-and-finance/social-discount-rate] that a social discount rate should equal (or at least be majorly influenced by) the marginal social opportunity cost of capital. I wonder if there's any discussion of this topic in the context of negative interest rates. For example, would defenders of that argument accept that, as those opportunity costs decline, so should the SDR?

Wednesday, January 15th 2020
Wed, Jan 15th 2020

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2Ramiro4d So, I saw Vox's article on how air filters create huge educational gains [https://www.vox.com/2020/1/8/21051869/indoor-air-pollution-student-achievement] ; I'm particularly surprised that indoor air quality (actually, indoor environmental conditions) is kinda neglected everywhere (except, maybe, in dagerous jobs). But then I saw this (convincing) critique [https://statmodeling.stat.columbia.edu/2020/01/09/no-i-dont-think-that-this-study-offers-good-evidence-that-installing-air-filters-in-classrooms-has-surprisingly-large-educational-benefits/] of the underlying paper. It seems to me that this is a suitable case for a blind RCT: you could install fake air filters in order to control for placebo effects, etc. But then I googled a little bit... and I haven't found significant studies using blind RCTs in social sciences and similar cases. I wonder why; at least for these cases, it doesn't seem more unethical or harder to do it than in medical trials.

Tuesday, January 14th 2020
Tue, Jan 14th 2020

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9Khorton5d I'm 60% sure that LessWrong people use the term "Moloch" in almost exactly the same way as social justice people use the term "kyriarchy" (or "capitalist cis-hetero patriarchy"). I might program my browser to replace "Moloch" with "kyriarchy". Might make Christian Twitter confusing though.
5Khorton5d There are some pretty good reasons to keep your identity small. http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html [http://www.paulgraham.com/identity.html] But I see people using that as an excuse to not identify as... anything. As in, they avoid affiliating themselves with any social movements, sports teams, schools, nation-states, professions, etc. It can be annoying and confusing when you ask someone "are you an EA?" or "are you a Christian?" or "are you British?" and they won't give you a straight answer. It's partly annoying because I'm very rationally trying to make some shortcut assumptions about them (if they're an EA, they've probably heard of malaria) and they're preventing me from doing that. But I also sometimes get the sense that they're trying to protect themselves by not affiliating with a movement, and I find that a bit annoying. I feel like they're a free rider. What are they trying to protect themselves from? Effectively they're protecting their reputation. This could be from an existing negative legacy of the group. eg If they don't identify as British (even though they're a British citizen) maybe they can dodge questions about the ongoing negative effects of the British empire. They could also be hedging against future negative reputation eg If I call myself an EA but then someone attempts a military coup in the name of EA, I would look bad. By avoiding declaring yourself a group member, you can sometimes avoid your reputation sinking when your chosen group makes bad choices. Unfortunately, that means that those of us with our reputations on the line are the ones who have the most skin in the game to keep people from doing stupid unilateralist things that make everyone in the community look bad. I would prefer it if people would take that big scary step of saying they're an EA or Christian or Brit or whatever, and then put in the work to improve your community's reputation. Obviously open to hearing reasons why people shouldn't identify as members o

Monday, January 13th 2020
Mon, Jan 13th 2020

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7EdoArad6d Basic Research vs Applied Research 1. If we are at the Hinge of History, it is less reasonable to focus on long-term knowledge building via basic research, and vice versa. 2. If we have identified the most promising causes well, then targeted applied research is promising.

Friday, January 10th 2020
Fri, Jan 10th 2020

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-4MichaelStJules9d This is a summary of the argument for the procreation asymmetry here and in the comments [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/2BWQ4NrCEP7a4vzaW/defending-the-procreation-asymmetry-with-conditional] , especially this comment [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/2BWQ4NrCEP7a4vzaW/defending-the-procreation-asymmetry-with-conditional#PGDtoFMvysYLwbS8f] , which also looks further at the case of bringing someone into existence with a good life. This is essentially Johann Frick's argument [https://scholar.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/jfrick/files/conditional_reasons_and_the_procreation_asymmetry_v10.pdf] , reframed. The starting claim is that your ethical reasons are in some sense conditional on the existence of individuals, and the asymmetry between existence and nonexistence can lead to the procreation asymmetry. 1. Choosing to not bring someone into existence, all else equal, is a "stable solution", something you would not regret and you would not wish you had done otherwise on ethical grounds, since that individual doesn't exist in that outcome to give you a reason to change your mind or wish you had. The individual who doesn't come to exist won't be wronged, since they won't exist, so no actual individual will be wronged. 2. Choosing to bring someone into existence with a bad life, all else equal, is not a "stable solution", because that individual will exist in that outcome to give you a reason to wish you had not brought them into existence in the first place. That reason is conditional on their existence. They will be wronged, since they will exist, so an actual individual will be wronged. Doing things you know you would never regret ethically (1) is ethically rational. Doing things you know you would regret and never be glad for ethically (2) is ethically irrational. So not bringing someone into existence, all else equal, is ethically rational, while bringing them into existence with a bad life, all else equal, is ethically irrational. This i

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