Welcome!

If you're new to the EA Forum:

  • Consider using this thread to introduce yourself!
  • You could talk about how you found effective altruism, what causes you work on and care about, or personal details that aren't EA-related at all.
  • (You can also put this info into your Forum bio.)

Everyone: 

  • If you have something to share that doesn't feel like a full post, add it here! (You can also create a Shortform post.)
  • You might also share good news, big or small (See this post for ideas.)
  • You can also ask questions about anything that confuses you (and you can answer them, or discuss the answers).

For inspiration, you can see the last open thread here


Other Forum resources

  1. 🖋️  Write on the EA Forum
  2. 🦋  Guide to norms on the Forum
  3. 🛠️  Forum User Manual
I personally like adding images to my Forum posts. Credit to DALL-E.
New Comment
29 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 4:06 AM

Just a warning on treating everyone as if they argue in good faith. They don’t. Émile P. Torres, aka @xriskology on Twitter doesn’t. He may say true honest things but if you find anything he says insightful check all the sources.

Émile P. Torres’s history of dishonesty and harassment An incomplete summary https://markfuentes1.substack.com/p/emile-p-torress-history-of-dishonesty

I think Émile is close to the line for me but I think we've had positive interactions. 

Not trying to disagree with what you're saying - just want to point out that Emile goes by they/them pronouns.

Internship / board of trustees!

My name is Simon Sällström, after graduating with a masters in economics from Oxford in July 2022, I decided against going on the traditional 9-5 route in the City of London to move around money to make more money for people who already have plenty of money… Instead, I launched a charity

DirectEd Development Foundation is a charitable organisation whose mission is to propel economic growth and develop and deliver evidence-based, highly scalable and cost-effective bootcamps to under-resourced high-potential students in Africa, preparing them for remote employment by equipping them with the most sought-after digital and soft skills on the market and thereby realise their potential as leaders of Africa’s digital transformation.

I'm looking for passionate people in the EA community to join me and my team!

We are mainly looking for two unpaid positions to fill right now: interns and trustees. The latter is quite an important role

I am not entirely sure how to best go about this which is why I am writing this short comment here. Any advice? 

Here's what I have done so far in terms of information about the internship position and application form: https://directed.notion.site/Job-board-3a6585f2175a456bb4f3d1149cfddba2 

Here is what we have for the trustees (work in progress):  https://directed.notion.site/Trustee-Role-and-Responsibilities-115d46fd04d94bd1a7061ca5d00f8f71 

Happy to take any and all advice:)

Woof. This look’s exhausting. So I found out I’m on the autism spectrum. My energy for people saying things is… not a very high capacity. It’s been fun recently to stretch my curiosity with this AI https://chat.openai.com/chat But engaging with people is generally an overwhelming prospect.

I want to design a stupidly efficient system that revives public journalism and research, strengthens eco-conscious businesses challenged by competitors who manufacture unsustainable consumer goods, provides supplemental education for age groups to support navigating changing understanding and provide guidance for “better humaning and/or Earth/environmental custodianship”, and establish foundations for universal basic income. And probably design a functional healthcare system while I’m at it. And I want to burn targeted advertisement to the ground.

Thanks for giving me a space where I can say all these things.

Does anyone have estimates on the cost effectiveness of trachoma prevention? It seems as though mass antibiotic administration is effective and cheap, and blindness is quite serious. However room for funding might be limited. I haven't seen it investigated by many of the organizations, but maybe I just haven't found the right report.

Hey everyone, I'm curious about the extent to which people in EA take (weak/strong) antinatalism/ negative utilitarianism seriously. I've read a bit around the topic and find some arguments more persuasive than others, but the idea that many lives are net-negative, and that even good lives might be worse than we think they are, has stuck with me. 

Based on my own mood diary, I'm leaning towards something around a 5.5/10 on a happiness scale being the neutral point, under which a life isn't worth living. 

This has made me a lot less enthusiastic about 'saving lives' for its own sake, especially those lives in countries/ regions with very poor quality of life. So I suspect that some 'life-saving' charities could be actively harmful and that we should focus way more on 'life-improving' charities/ cause areas. (There are probably very few charities that only save lives- preventing malaria/ reducing lead exposure both improves and saves lives- but we can imagine a 'pure-play life-saving charity'.)

I haven't come to any conclusions here, but the 'cost to save a life' framing, still common in EA, strikes me as probably morally invalid. I don't hear this argument mentioned much (you don't seem to get anyone actively arguing against 'saving lives'), so I'm just curious what the range of EA opinion is. 

How do folks! Stoked to have the opportunity to try and be a participant that contributes something meaningful here on the EA Forum. 

EA Forum Guidelines (and Aaron)...thank you for the guidance and encouraging me to write the bio. 

All, I'm new to the EA community. I'll hope to meet some of you soon. Please feel free to send a hello anytime. 

I see the "Commenting Guidelines". They remind me of the Simple Rules of Inquiry that I've used for many years. Are they a decent match for the spirit of this Forum?

  1. Turn judgment into curiosity
  2. Turn conflict into shared exploration
  3. Turn defensiveness into self-reflection
  4. Turn assumptions into questions

What do I care about?  I've been unanimously appointed to the post of lead head deputy associate administrator facilitator of my daughters' education (6 and 10) . I love them. Our educational praxis is designed to enable them to realize an evaluative evolution and create a future we want amidst the accelerating coevolution of Nature, Humans and AI. No presh. They spell great. Well, one out of two anyway.

I also care about the chill peeps sweeping the beach with metal detectors wearing headsets. I want to learn more but I don't want to be rude and interrupt what they are listening to. 

See you in the funny papers.

Matt

(I'm reading the commenting guidelines wondering which ones I violated. Like a historian, I'm not sure if I was explaining or pursuading. I certainly wasn't clear. I disagreed with almost everything I wrote...didn't I? Okay. So. How do I ask readers where they went after they got kicked off this Forum? Tbc, I want to stay.).

Hey Matt,

welcome to the EA Forum. :)

Your personal guidelines translate well into our community guidelines here in the forum. No worries on that front.

If you want any guidance on where to find more information or where to start, feel free to ask or write me a personal message. 

I was browsing your website/blog and found a missing page:
https://www.creatingafuturewewant.com/praxes/democratizingeffectiveness
https://prezi.com/vsrfc7ztmkvn/democratizing-effectiveness/?present=1
The presentation is offline atm. I hope this helps. :D

A suggestion for your work as lead head deputy associate administrator and facilitator could be to visit this website:
https://www.non-trivial.org/ 

Non-Trivial sponsors fellowships for student projects, which is something you could do in the future, but more importantly for now maybe take a look at their course:
https://course.non-trivial.org/

"How to (actually) change the world" could be interesting.

With kind regards

Felix

Thank you Felix. Nice to feel welcome. 

Grateful for the new opportunities and resources you've shared. We will look into them and keep them handy. 

I appreciate the website feedack...It is a work in progress and I could do much better at tidying things up that I won't likely get to in the near term. On it!

Thank you for your service to educate our friends and peers about the environment.

Take good care of yourself Felix. 
Matt

I thought it might be helpful to share this article. The title speaks for itself.

 

How to Legalize Prediction Markets

What you (yes, you) can do to move humanity forward

Hi I’m Silas Barta. First comment here! I organize the Austin LessWrong group. I’m currently retired off of earlier investing (formerly software engineer) but am still looking for my next career to maximize my impact. I think I have a calling in either information security (esp reverse engineering) or improving the quality of explanations and introductions to technical topics.

I have donated cryptocurrency and contributed during Facebook’s Giving Tuesday, and gone to the Bay Area EA Globals in 2016 and 2017.

You might want to know that a few weeks ago, 80.000 hours updated their career path profile on information security.

Hey Silas,

welcome to the Forum. I wish you the best of luck to find a fulfilling career. :)

If you have any kind of question on where to find resources or what not, feel free to ask.

With kind regards

Felix

Qn: Where is the closest EA community base to the US? How accesible is the USA from it (US Consulate)?

Context: I am recently let go from my job while on a visa in the states. Which means I have to leave the US within the next 7 days. I would like to live somewhere close to the US where I can find community so that I don't loose momentum to do the intense work that job search needs. I tend to be really affected by the energy of where I am; I work best in cities, I tend to sleep most on a countryside.

This might also be a good resource for people who are not able to enter the US for any reason whatsoever. I am assuming a longterm housing community in a nomad friendly place like CDMX would do wonders for people wishing to be within +/- 3 hours of timezone of their American colleagues.

There are some EAs hanging out in CDMX until the end of Jan (and maybe some after)

Agree that having a nomad friendly community near the US would be great

What kind of lightbulb is Qualy? Incandescent or LED? probably not CFL given the shape

Hi all, I'm Vlad, 35, from Romania. I've been working in software engineering for 12 years. I have a bachelor's and master's degree in Physics.

I'm here because I read "What we owe the future", after it was recommended to me by a friend.

I got the book recommended to me because I had an idea which is a little unconfortable for some people, but I think this idea is extremely important, and this friend of mine instantly classified my thoughts as "a branch of long-termism". I also think my idea is extremely relevant to this group, and I'm interested in getting feedback about it.

Context for the  idea: Long-termism is concerned about people as far into the future as possible, up to the end of the universe.

The idea: ...what if we can make it so there doesn't have to be an end? If we had a limitless source of energy, there wouldn't have to be an end. Not only that, but we could make a lot of people very happy (like billions of billions of billions .....of billions of them? a literal infinity of them even)

 

It sounds crazy, I realize, but my best knowledge on this topic says this:

  • We know that we don't know all the laws of the universe
  • Even the known laws kind of have a loop-hole in them. Energy is supposed to be conserved, but we don't necessarily know how much energy exists out there - if an infinite amount exists, we can both use it, and conserve it
  • I received feedback from a few physicists already, none of them said that infinite energy is clearly impossible - just that we don't know how we could get it

 

So my conclusion is: some amount of effort into the topic of infinite energy should be invested. 

 

Is anyone interested in talking about this? I can show you what I have so far.

 

P.S. fusion is not a source of infinite energy, but merely a source of energy potentially far better than most others we know

P.P.S. I created this website for the initiative: https://github.com/vladiibine/infinite-energy

You would like Alexey Turchin's research into surviving the end of the universe.

I would not call it "research". Science fiction might be a better term. Which is also, I suspect, why Vlad's comment is very disagreed with. There's nothing to suggest surviving the end of the universe is any more plausible than any supernatural myth being true.

Hey Guy, thanks for your feedback.

I might be wrong on this, but the way I understand probability to work is that, generally:

  • if event A has probability P(A)
  • and if event B has probability P(B)
  • then the probability of both A and B to happen is P(A) * P(B)

What this means, is that technically:

  • The existence of supernatural beings, with personalities, and specific traits AND the power "to do anything they want" is at most equal to the possibility for an endless source of energy to exist

simply on the basis that more constraints make the probability of the event smaller.

 

The interesting point however is that I have found (so far) no physicist that says this is not possible.

I have also not found anyone yet who knows how to estimate the effort so far.

 

I would be very interested however if there are arguments against this position.

 

And I'd be even more interested in people who want to help me with this initiative :D Arguments are nice, but making progress is better! 

Given that empirical science cannot ever conclusively prove anything, you may never find a physicist to tell you that it isn't possible. But there's no reason to think that it is possible. Compare to Russell's Teapot.

Regarding your argument about probabilities - yes, the probability of an omnipotent god is necessarily smaller than that of any infinite source of energy (although it's not a product - that's just true for independent events). However I was not only talking about omnipotent gods, and anyway this probabilistic reasoning is the wrong way to think about this. When you do it, you get things like Pascal's wager (or Pascal's mugging, have your pick).

Hi Guy,

Thanks for your answer.

Given that empirical science cannot ever conclusively prove anything, you may never find a physicist to tell you that it isn't possible. But there's no reason to think that it is possible. Compare to Russell's Teapot.

We don't know whether this is possible. You are the only one to make the choice between:

  • so we shouldn't try to find out
  • so we should try to find out

Pascal's wager and oppotunity cost madness ensues thereafter. However, maybe I'm blindspotted, but I can't find a better topic to bet on - would solve all problems solvable with resources.

I don't think I can find a non-emotional way to convince people to switch from we should not search to we should search (for infinite energy). 

Addressing rationally (but it's not clear how reason can change values/emotions) :

  1. there's a big difference in the impact of Russel's teapot and infinite energy. One is irrelevant, the other is extremely relevant
  2. 2000 years ago, there was no reason to think that it would be possible to get to the moon or have mobile phones. The universe isn't obliged to respect human intuitions.
  3. True, there's at this point no clear reason to think this is possible 
    1. well except energy possibly not being conserved in general relativity - I can't tell if there's a consensus on this topic or not at this point - crazy! 
    2. Also, fundamentally because something exists (rather than nothing), some hope exists that there's arbitrarily more of this "something". Why would existence necesarily be constrained to a finite quantity?
  4. However, the impact of infinite energy, to me, seems high enough to require some serious research on the topic. The current times also leave a lot of gaps, where we can try to find infinite energy:
    1. quantum mechanics and relativity are incompatible with each other
    2. relativity itself is failing (dark energy vs dark matter clearly show we don't understand what happens in ~95% of the universe). Dark matter can explain some things but not others, modified gravity explains others, but not some.
    3. the big bang at t=0 possibly violates conservation of energy

 

Comparison to Pascal's wager is an interesting point. Sounds like it makes sense to some extent. I am not 100% certain though that the one could fundamentally boil down the infinite energy problem to Pascal's wager, because: 

  •  I am not certain if we can even talk about 
    • how many gods there are
    • and how compatible they are with one another
    • how many of them could be real at the same time
  • whereas science pretty much converged on very few ways to look at the world
    • and especially on the concept of energy - it is present in all the major theories of physics (at least to my knowledge)

 

So in a way, the infinite energy idea is at the very least more like a Pascal's wager, where there seem to be far fewer gods.

 

But ultimately, this is an emotional issue. It is very similar to climate change in this regard, just more abstract, further away, and with higher payoffs.

Hi Vlad,

You're getting a lot of disagree votes. I wanted to explain why (from my perspective), this is probably not a useful way to spend your time.

Longtermists typically propose working on problems that impact the long run future and can't be solved in the future. X-risks is a great example - if we don't solve it now, there will be no future people to solve it. Another example is historical records preservation, which is something that is likewise easy to do now but could be impossible to do in the future.

This seems like a problem that future people would be in a much better position to solve than we are.

Obviously there's nothing wrong with pursuing an idea simply because you find it interesting. A good starting place for you might be Isaac Arthur on Youtube. He has a series called Civilizations at the End of Time which is related to what you are thinking about.

Hi Erin,

Thanks for your explanations of what likely is the issue regarding disagreement here. I appreciate it that you spent some time to shed light here, because feedback is important to me.

I knew about Isaac Arthur, I'm trying to reach out to him and his community as we speak.

I'd try to add some clarrifications, hoping I adress the concerns of those people that seemed to be in disagreement with my idea.

I find it quite surprising that people concerned with the long-term welfare of humanity seem to be against my idea.

If there are genuine arguments against my position, I'd totally be open to hear it - maybe indeed there's something wrong with my idea.

However I can't find a way to get rid of these points (I think this is philosophy)

  • Sure, investing more than 0 effort into this initiative, takes away from other efforts
  • The faster we reach this goal, the faster we can make tremendous improvements in peoples' lives
  • If we delay this for long enough, society might not be in such a state as to afford doing this kind of research (society might also be in a better position, but I'm more concerned about

 

Regarding viability:

  • I don't know how much effort must be invested into this initiative, in order to achieve its goals 
  • I don't know if this is possible (Though through my own expertise, and the expertise of 11 physicists out of which at least 4 are physics professors, this goal does not seem impossible to reach)

 

Framing in "What we owe the future" terms:

  • Contingency: I'd give it 3/5 because
    • 1 would be something obvious to everyone
    • 2 would be obvious to experts
    • 3 would be obvious to experts, but there would be cultural forces against it. William MacAskill talks about "cultural lock-in". I think science is in such kind of a situation today. You might have heard of issues such as "publish or perish" ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Publish_or_perish ). There's also the taboo created because of similarities with "perpetual motion machines".
  • Persistence: 5/5.  It's realistic we could lose access to this, but if we don't, then this in conceivably the most persistent thing possible (comparable to the death of all sentient beings, this is the other extreme)
  • Significance: 5/5 - Hard to imagine something more significant than the ability to literally give everyone every thing they want or need (not "everything" but "every thing", because you can't give them human slaves, or make other people their friends, if those other people disagree)

 

So if my points are correct, we basically have a tradeoff between:

  • Invest less in more concrete initiatives and
  • Risk losing eternal bliss for an infinity of people

This is a genuine dylema, I don't have the answer to it, but my intuition tells me that we should invest more than 0 effort in this goal.

 

@Erin, or others:

Do you have any other idea where I should take this problem? As said, I'm trying to reach out to Isaac Arthur and many other people. Do you think this would be interesting for William MacAskill?

 

Thanks a lot,

Vlad A.

I don't think I stated my core point clearly. I will be blunt for the purpose of clarity. Pursing this is not useful because, even if you could make a discovery, it would not possibly be useful until literally 100 quintillion years from now, if not much longer. To think that you could transmit this knowledge that far into future doesn't make any sense.

Perhaps you wish to pursue this as a purely theoretical question. I'm not a physicist, so I can not comment on whether your ideas are reasonable from that perspective. You say that physicists have told you that they are, but do not discount the possibility that they were simply being polite, or that your questions were misinterpreted.

Additionally, the reality is that people without PhDs in a given field rarely make significant contributions these days - if you seek to do so, your ideas must be exceptionally well communicated and  grounded in the current literature (e.g., you must demonstrate an understanding of the orthodox paradigm even if your ideas are heterodox). Otherwise, your ideas will be lumped in with perpetual motion machines and ignored. 

I genuinely think it would be a mistake to pursue this idea at all, even from a theoretical perspective, because there is essentially no chance that you are onto something real, that you can make progress on it with the tools available to you, and that you can communicate it so clearly that you will be taken seriously.

A better route to pursue might be writing science fiction. There is always demand for imaginative sci-fi with a clear grounding in real science or highly plausible imagined science. There is also a real need for sci-fi that imagines positive/desirable futures (e.g. solarpunk).

Hi @Erin , thanks for your continued interest in this topic.

Thanks for being blunt. Bluntness is good for saving time.

Let me address some things you said:

Pursing this is not useful because, even if you could make a discovery, it would not possibly be useful until literally 100 quintillion years from now

That is simply just not true. If we had infinite energy tomorrow, very soon after that, we could feed everyone (and provide water and shelter). Pretty soon (thousands of years maybe?) we could solve all problems solvable using resources.

To think that you could transmit this knowledge that far into future doesn't make any sense.

Based on the refutation above, this point does not stand anymore.

You say that physicists have told you that they are, but do not discount the possibility that they were simply being polite, or that your questions were misinterpreted.

This is an awkward argument to address. Sure, everybody I ever met could be lying, and there's always solipsism. Same argument applies to everyone. I don't think this is a healthy way to continue a conversation - throwing doubt into what people say. It's not healthy compared to an alternative that fortunately enough, we have:

  • I am currently reaching out to more and more physicists, and asking them for their opinion on this. I am posting updates regularly on the discord server that you can find on http://infiniteenergy.org . If you are interested, you'll find there how much physicists are interested in this.
  • If you have any idea of what I would need to show you, so you consider there's enough interest from the science community, I'm all ears. 

Please however let's avoid distrust-based arguments in the future, and let's replace them with data-based arguments. 

I'd avoid them first of all because, being from Eastern Europe, I am not aware of the existence of people who would not call an idea "stupid" right off the bat, instead of being polite, if they had the slightest distrust in it. Am I wrong? Not sure. Am I lying? You can't be sure. So let's let experiments decide :)

 

I genuinely think it would be a mistake to pursue this idea at all, even from a theoretical perspective, because there is essentially no chance that you are onto something real, that you can make progress on it with the tools available to you, and that you can communicate it so clearly that you will be taken seriously.

@Erin, I can't fight belief. If you believe this idea is wrong, there's not much point in talking. 

Sure, you said "think", not "believe" - taken, however thinking and reason means explanations, justifications, models, and logic. Do you care to justify:

  1. Why you think there's essentially no chance that I'm onto something real
  2. How I would not be able to make progress on it with the tools available to me (the internet is my preffered tool)
  3. That I wouldn't be able to communicate it well enough to be taken seriously
  4. That I won't find other people more capable than me in any of the points above

I understand that this might be a deep emotional backlash. Humans have emotions, yes, unfortunately at times.

I'm however looking for supporters, and there will be only so much time I will spend on arguing with non-supporters. If you don't want to believe that people are interested in this, feel free. If you want to see what actually is happening, check out http://infiniteenergy.org 

It kind of feels like all I have so far was said. I don't have more data at this point to get you more toward "omg, this might be possible after all", but I am eager to hear your arguments, that might get me more toward "omg, this might actually not be possible" - as they say in startups: "negative feedback is the best kind of feeback".

 

Thanks for your feedback!

[+][comment deleted]4d 20