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December 2019

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6vaidehi_agarwalla3d COULD REGULAR SMALL DONATIONS TO FACEBOOK FUNDRAISERS INCREASE DONATIONS FROM NON-EAS? The day before Giving Tuesday, I made a donation to a EA Facebook charity that had seen no donations in a few weeks. After I donated to about 3 other people donated within the next 2 hours (well before the Giving Tuesday start time). From what I remember, the total amount increased by more than the minimum amount and the individuals appeared not to be affiliated with EA, so it seems possible that this fundraiser might have somehow been raised to their attention. (Of course it's possible that with Giving Tuesday approaching they would have donated anyway.) However, it made think that regularly donating to fundraisers could keep them on people's feeds inspire them to donate, and that this could be a pretty low-cost experiment to run. Since you can't see amounts, you could donate the minimum amount on a regular basis (say every month or so - about $60 USD per year). The actual design of the experiment would be fairly straight forward as well: use the previous year as a baseline of activity for a group of EA organisations and then experiment with who donates, when they donate, and different donation amounts. If you want to get more in-depth you could also look at other factors of the individual who donates (i.e. how many FB friends they have). EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN Using EA Giving Tuesday's had 28 charities that people could donate to. Of that, you could select 10 charities as your controls, and 10 similar charities (i.e. similar cause, intervention, size) as your experimental group, and recruit 5 volunteer donors per charity to donate once a month on a randomly selected day. They would make the donation without adding any explanation or endorsement. Then you could use both the previous year's data and the current year's controlled charities to compare the effects. You would want to track whether non-volunteer donations or traffic was gained after the volunteer donations. Caveats: T
5hereisonehand7d [] A key & peele video that is effectively EA dark humor. Enjoy!
4KevinO3d You can now vote in Project 4 Awesome to help EA charities win grants of, judging by past years, $25,000 USD. You can vote for each video for each charity, and each vote counts. Click on the thumbnail to access the voting page for each video. GFI: [] AMF: [] Give Directly: [] Clean Air Taskforce: [] It's probably best to open one tab, do the CAPTCHA, and then open the rest of the tabs so you don't have to repeat the CAPTCHA. (Credit to Michael; I have no idea how to link to users.)
1Mati_Roy4d x-post with [] (see wiki for latest version) Epistemic status: intuition; tentative | Quality: quick write-up | Created: 2019-12-05 | Acknowledgement: Nicolas Lacombe for discussions on tracking political promises Assumption: more democracy is valuable; related: The rules for rulers [], 10% Less Democracy [] NON-DENOMINATIONAL VOLUNTEERING OPPORTUNITIES IN POLITICS Tracking political promises Polimeter [] is a platform that allows to track how well politicians keep their promises. This likely increases the incentive for politicians to be honest. This is useful because if citizens don’t know how their vote will translate in policies, it’s harder for them to vote meaningfully. Plus, citizens are likely to prefer more honest politicians all else equal. The platform allows to create new trackers as well as contributing to existing ones. Voting reform The Center for Election Science [] is working to implement an approval voting mechanism in more jurisdictions in the US. They work with volunteers with various expertise; see: []. National Popular Vote Interstate Compact National Popular Vote [] is promoting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact [] which aims to make the electoral vote reflect the popular vote. They are looking for volunteers; see []

November 2019

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20jpaddison1mo The new Forum turns 1 year old today. 🎵Happy Birthday to us 🎶
16EdoArad1mo AMF's cost of nets is decreasing over time due to economies of scale and competition between net manufacturers. []
8EdoArad20d How about an option to transfer Karma directly to posts/comments? Perhaps to have the transfer be public (part of the information of the karma of the comment). This may allow some interesting "trades" such as giving prizes for answers (say, like in stackexchange) or have people display more strongly support for a comment. Damn.. As stated, when people can pay to put Karma in posts, there is a problematic "attack" against it. left as an exercise :) I still think that Karma transfer between people and prizes on comments/posts can be very interesting
7EdoArad24d Statisticians Without Borders [] is a volunteer Outreach Group of the American Statistical Association that provides pro bono services in statistics and data science. Their focus is mostly on developing countries. They have about 800 Volunteers. Their Executive Committee consists of volunteers democratically elected from within the volunteer community every two years.
6aarongertler25d Quick PSA: If you have an ad-blocking extension turned on while you browse the Forum, it very likely means that your views aren't showing up in our Google Analytics data. That's not something we care too much about, but it does make our ideas about how many users the Forum has, and what they like to read, slightly less accurate. Consider turning off your adblocker for our domain if you'd like to do us a tiny favor.
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October 2019

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42Stefan_Schubert2mo The Nobel Prize in Economics [] awarded to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty".
14Stefan_Schubert2mo Link []
13Stefan_Schubert2mo Of possible interest regarding the efficiency of science: paper [] finds that scientists on average spend 52 hours per year formatting papers. ( Times Higher Education write-up [] ; extensive excerpts here [] if you don't have access.)
13jpaddison2mo Thus starts the most embarrassing post-mortem I've ever written. The EA Forum went down for 5 minutes today. My sincere apologies to anyone who's Forum activity was interrupted. I was first alerted by Pingdom [], which I am very glad we set up. I immediately knew what was wrong. I had just hit "Stop" on the (long unused and just archived) CEA Staff Forum, which we built as a test of the technology. Except I actually hit stop on the EA Forum itself. I turned it back on and it took a long minute or two, but was soon back up. ... Lessons learned: * I've seen sites that, after pressing the big red button that says "Delete", makes you enter the name of the service / repository / etc. you want to delete. I like those, but did not think of porting it to sites without that feature. I think I should install a TAP [] that whenever I hit a big red button, I confirm the name of the service I am stopping. * The speed of the fix leaned heavily on the fact that Pingdom was set up. But it doesn't catch everything. In case it doesn't catch something, I just changed it so that anyone can email me with "urgent" in the subject line and I will get notified on my phone, even if it is on silent. My email is jp at organizationwebsite [].
6evelynciara2mo John, Katherine, Sarah, and Hank Green are making a $6.5M donation to Partners in Health to address the maternal mortality crisis in Sierra Leone, and are trying to raise $25M in total. PIH has been working with the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health to improve the quality of maternal care through facility upgrades, supplies, and training. PIH blog post [] • vlogbrothers video []
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September 2019

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49jpaddison3mo Appreciation post for Saulius I realized recently that the same author [] that made the corporate commitments [] post and the misleading cost effectiveness post [] also made all three of these excellent posts on neglected animal welfare concerns that I remembered reading. Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen [] Rodents farmed for pet snake food [] 35-150 billion fish are raised in captivity to be released into the wild every year [] For the first he got this notable comment [] from OpenPhil's Lewis Bollard. Honorable mention includes this post [] which I also remembered, doing good epistemic work fact-checking a commonly cited comparison.
28Linch3mo cross-posted from Facebook []. Sometimes I hear people who caution humility say something like "this question has stumped the best philosophers for centuries/millennia. How could you possibly hope to make any progress on it?". While I concur that humility is frequently warranted and that in many specific cases that injunction is reasonable [1], I think the framing is broadly wrong. In particular, using geologic time rather than anthropological time hides the fact that there probably weren't that many people actively thinking about these issues, especially carefully, in a sustained way, and making sure to build on the work of the past. For background, 7% of all humans who have ever lived are alive today, and living people compose 15% of total human experience [2] so far!!! It will not surprise me if there are about as many living philosophers today as there were dead philosophers in all of written history. For some specific questions that particularly interest me (eg. population ethics, moral uncertainty), the total research work done on these questions is generously less than five philosopher-lifetimes. Even for classical age-old philosophical dilemmas/"grand projects" (like the hard problem of consciousness), total work spent on them is probably less than 500 philosopher-lifetimes, and quite possibly less than 100. There are also solid outside-view reasons to believe that the best philosophers today are just much more competent [3] than the best philosophers in history, and have access to much more resources[4]. Finally, philosophy can build on progress in natural and social sciences (eg, computers, game theory). Speculating further, it would not surprise me, if, say, a particularly thorny and deeply important philosophical problem can effectively be solved in 100 more philosopher-lifetimes. Assuming 40 years of work and $200,000/year per philosopher, including overhead, this is ~800 millio
14jpaddison3mo Posting this on shortform rather than as a comment because I feel like it's more personal musings than a contribution to the audience of the original post — Things I'm confused about after reading Will's post, Are we living at the most influential time in history? [] : What should my prior be about the likelihood of being at the hinge of history? I feel really interested in this question, but haven't even fully read the comments on the subject. TODO. How much evidence do I have for the Yudkowsky-Bostrom framework? I'd like to get better at comparing the strength of an argument to the power of a study. Suppose I think that this argument holds. Then it seems like I can make claims about AI occurring because I've thought about the prior that I have a lot of influence. I keep going back and forth about whether this is a valid move. I think it just is, but I assign some credence that I'd reject it if I thought more about it. What should my estimate of the likelihood we're at the HoH if I'm 90% confident in the arguments presented in the post?
13Kerry_Vaughan3mo The scaffolding problem in early stage science Part of the success of science comes from the creation and use of scientific instruments. Yet, before you can make good use of any new scientific instrument, you have to first solve what I’m going to call the “scaffolding problem.” A scientific instrument is, broadly speaking, any device or tool that you can use to study the world. At the most abstract level, the way a scientific instrument works is that it interacts with the world in some way resulting in a change in its state. You then study the change in the instrument’s state as a way of learning about the world. For example, imagine you want to use a thermometer to learn the temperature of a cup of water. Instead of studying the water directly, what the thermometer lets you do is study the thermometer itself to learn the temperature instead of studying the water directly. For a device as well-calibrated as a modern thermometer, this works extremely well. Now imagine you’ve invented some new scientific instrument and you want to figure out whether it works. How would you go about doing that? This is a surprisingly difficult problem. Here’s an abstract way of stating it: 1. We want to learn about some phenomenon, X. 2. X is not directly observable, so we infer it from some other phenomenon, Y. 3. If we want to know if Y tells us about X, we cannot use Y itself, we must use some other phenomenon, Z. 4. If Z is supposed to tell us about X, then either: 4a) There’s no need to infer X from Y, we should just infer it from Z OR 4b) We have to explain why we can infer X from Z, which repeats this problem To understand the problem, take the case of the thermometer. If we have the world’s first thermometer what we want to know is whether the thermometer tells us about the temperature. But, to do that we need to know the temperature. But if we knew the temperature there wouldn’t be a need to invent a thermometer in the first place. Given that we have sc
12casebash3mo If we run any more anonymous surveys, we should encourage people to pause and consider whether they are contributing productively or just venting. I'd still be in favour of sharing all the responses, but I have enough faith in my fellow EAs to believe that some would take this to heart.
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