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This is a review for asterisk #1, the first edition of a quarterly EA focused magazine

Review: 4/10

Summary: What I most felt here is that things fell flatter than I expected. I'm not entirely sure what my expectations were going in, but something slightly comedic and written in a more entertaining format like Is Wine Fake? and something weird and out there like They Might as Well Grow on Trees felt like they represented what this looks like when it goes well. Overall, the content itself was above average, but I wound up at 4/10 because the magazine aspects (the illustrations, the large text blurbs) were really disappointing, and detracted more than added. So because of this, and the lack of a general stylistic theme separating these from being "a bunch of random forum posts collected together" I came out disappointed.

Why take the time? The community has moved a lot of funding into this project (at least $1m just from Open Phil), so I think it's pretty important to gather perspectives on it to know if it's a good bet to continue into the future[1]. I think it's crazy we don't have any of that here (beyond a few odd comments on the announcement page), and offer this as a place for others to review the work as well, if you so desire. I gave the individual reviews of the articles below to give a better sense of where I think the content went right and wrong, to hopefully give some more concrete feedback. 

Article Reviews

Modeling the End of Monkeypox: while I think there's a lot to say here and I'm eager to learn how to be a better forecaster, this didn't seem to help me towards that goal. I suppose it felt like it had one foot in the door of trying to give an account of the history of monkeypox evolution and one in the door of trying to use the changing landscape to illustrate how they went about forecasting it

WWOTF review: I felt that this didn't substantively go much further than the (interesting point) that MacAskill diverges from the EA norm of explaining longtermism here, mostly just further highlighting the difference. I understood the thrust from the first page and don't feel like things took me much further than that in the rest (barring the critique of of WWOTFs focus takes it into the really long term future, missing the important context for longtermism in the next hundred years, which I thought was quite well put). I think this could have benefited from having a comparison point ("think back to the precipice and how it...") or a stronger argument ("and this project got a crazy amount of EA funding, so what does this mean for channeling funding towards projects at the top like this") but I'm also unsure.

Making Sense of Moral Change: this article seemed to suffer from staying too general. Like I was okay with some of the basic stage setting in the beginning, reading quickly through so I could get to the interesting bits, but then it felt like what it largely gave me was abstractions and general sentiments that helped me roughly understand the point but didn't really help me understand things I could point to specifically, or how to take the upshots of this and apply it elsewhere. 

How to Prevent the Next Pandemic: an average article, with huge positives in its information dense nature and leaving me feeling like I have a slightly better grip on this issue, but also some negatives in that information density being concentrated and other areas being more basic or repetitive.

Rebuilding After the Replication Crisis: maybe it's me who should have known better, because I studied psyc undergrad and had one of the big proponents of the Open Science project for a professor, but none of this was new for me.

Why Isn't the Whole World Rich: it was refreshing to have a piece that didn't feel general and felt like it was trying to get down to the brass tax of an interesting body of research that I only vaguely knew a little about, and my overall experience here was positive, I just wish there were also some more concrete suggestions for what exactly it is we can do or should encourage beyond "maybe North Korean style central authoritarian regime isn't the best". Even the positive suggestion of "maybe democracy is the key" gets challenged in the end. 

Is Wine Fake? this was great. It was something that I had thought about before, have had conversations with friends over, and balances lighthearted commentary on something non-EA with illustrating an overarching lesson that can be helpful. Maybe the best article of the journal for me.

China's Silicon Future: this was wonderfully informative and did a really good job to find a relevant but fairly niche subject to expand upon. I really felt like this helped cohere a bunch of vague notions I had about the dynamics here into a much more coherent whole that I think also will help me be slightly more informed for my AI policy work. 

The Illogic of Nuclear Escalation: I found much new here, despite an interest in nuclear risk that has lead me to consuming a lot of the EA material on the subject, which was really nice. It pairs really well with 80k's episode #143 with Jeffery Lewis, as he expands upon a lot of these ideas and gives you a way to further engage with the topic if you found it interesting. 

They May as Well Grow on Trees: wow. This was a great one to end on, the one weird article of the magazine that showed this wasn't just a copy paste collection of typical forum posts. I really enjoyed it, and it felt like a crash course of Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood, hitting some of the major themes there well remarkably well for how short a space they had. 

 

  1. ^

    Of course, the best evaluation will be at a much higher level, and will include "what Tristan (and others) think" as one piece among many others. 

  2. ^

    Almost called it a "magazine review" but don't think that would get much use as a tag

  3. ^

    Again an odd fit here because I actually can't review this on goodreads, but this is my typical way of going about things so I keep the structure even if its somewhat nonsensical. 

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