alexrjl's Shortform

by alexrjl2nd Nov 20198 comments
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I'm considering taking the very +EV betting opportunities available with the US election with the money I plan to donate over the next 6 months, then donating the winnings (or not donating if I lose).

Some more discussion on my twitter here but I'm interested in thoughts from EAF members too. It's not a huge amount of money either way.

I ended up doing this.

This went well :) Congrats EAF meta, Rethink, and GFI on your winnings.

Together with a few EA friends, I ended up betting a substantial amount of money on Biden. It went well for me, too, as well as for some of my friends. I think presidential elections present unusually good opportunities for both betting and arbitrage, so it may be worth coordinating some joint effort next time.

(As a note of historical interest, during the 2012 US election a small group of early EAs made some money arbitraging Intrade.)

Given the probably existence of several catastrophic "tipping points" in climate change, as well as feedback loops more generally such as melting ice reducing solar reflectivity, it seems likely that averting CO2 emissions in the future is less valuable than doing so today.


To do: Figure out an appropriate discount rate to account for this.

I like the idea:word ratio in this post.

Discounting the future consequences of welfare producing actions:

  • there's almost unanimous agreement among moral philosophers that welfare itself should not be discounted in the future.
  • however many systems in the world are chaotic, and it's very uncontroversial that in consequentialist theories the value of an action should depend on the expected utility it produces.
  • is it possible that the rational conclusion is to exponentially discount future welfare as a way of accounting for the exponential sensitivity to initial conditions exhibited by the long term consequences of one's actions?

I started donating regularly but following the thought process:

Some amount of money exists which is small enough that I wouldn't notice not having it.

This is clearly a lower bound on how much I am morally obligated to donate, because not having it costs me 0 utility, but giving it awa generates positive utility for someone else.

I ended up donating £1/month, but committing never to cancel this and periodically review it. I now donate much, much more.

To do:

Compare the benefits of encouraging other people to take a similar approach with the potentially harm associated with this approach going wrong, specifically moral licensing kicking in at relatively small donation amounts.