Shortform Content [Beta]

Nathan Young's Shortform

Clubhouse Invite Thread

1) Clubhouse is a new social media platform, but you need an invite to join
2) It allows chat in rooms, and networking
3) Seems some people could deliver sooner value by having a clubhouse invite
4) People who are on clubhouse have invites to give
5) If you think an invite would be valuable or heck you'd just like one, comment below and then if anyone has invites to give they can see EAs who want them.
6) I have some invites to give away.

alexrjl's Shortform

When Roodman's awesome piece on modelling the human trajectory came out, I feel like far too little attention was paid to the catastrophic effects of including finite resources in the model. 

I wonder if part of this is an (understandable) reaction to the various fairly unsophisticated anti-growth arguments which float around in environmentalist and/or anticapitalist circles. It would be a mistake to dismiss this as a concern simply because some related arguments are bad. To sustain increasing growth, our productive output per unit resource has to beco... (read more)

Showing 3 of 8 replies (Click to show all)
2Linch2dAh yeah. Damn, I could have sworn I did the math before on this (for this exact question) but somehow forgot the result.😅

This is why you should have done physics ;)

2Max_Daniel2dAnd yes, wasting or misusing resources due to competitive pressure in my view is one of the key failure modes to be mindful of in the context of AI alignment and AI strategy. FWIW, my sense is that this belief is held by many people in the field, and that a fair amount of thought has been going into it. (Though as with most issues in this space I think we don't have a "definite solution" yet.)
KevinO's Shortform

Today I learned about Simpol, an org working on solving global coordination problems:

Their approach is to encourage governments to work together to enact "simultaneous policy" across multiple issues to take action while avoiding first-mover challenges or a race to the bottom. By negotiating across multiple issues, concessions can be made to entities that might lose out in some areas in order to keep the entire negotiation net-positive for all.

So far my learning has been from this podcast episode, although it took a while to really explain the not-very-complex solution. 

alexrjl's Shortform

Lots of Givewell's modelling assumes that health burdens of diseases or deficiencies are roughly linear in a harm vs. severity sense. This is a defensible default assumption, but seems important enough when you dig in to the analysis that it would be worth investigating when it comes to whether there's a more sensible prior.

Linch's Shortform

Do people have thoughts on what the policy should be on upvoting posts by coworkers? 

Obviously telling coworkers (or worse, employees!) to upvote your posts should be verboten, and having a EA forum policy that you can't upvote posts by coworkers is too draconian (and also hard to enforce). 

But I think there's a lot of room in between to form a situation like "where on average posts by people who work at EA orgs will have more karma than posts of equivalent semi-objective quality." Concretely, 2 mechanisms in which this could happen (and almost c... (read more)

I'd prefer that people on the Forum not have to worry too much about norms of this kind. If you see a post or comment you think is good, upvote it. If you're worried that you and others at your org have unequal exposure to coworkers' content, make a concerted effort to read other Forum posts as well, or even share those posts within your organization. 

That said, if you want to set a norm for yourself or suggest one for others, I have no problem with that — I just don't see the Forum adopting something officially. Part of the problem is that people oft... (read more)

Jeffray_Behr's Shortform

I joined the SHIPs ( program and came up with a few project ideas that I think are worth pursuing, but I don't have the background to do them effectively. The following are some of my ideas that I encourage others to consider working on:

Default Advocacy: Advocating (via sending emails and/or calling) to people of influence to set the altruistic option as the default (to take advantage of the default effect since people are less likely to opt in/out of something if... (read more)

Default Advocacy: Advocating (via sending emails and/or calling) to people of influence to set the altruistic option as the default (to take advantage of the default effect since people are less likely to opt in/out of something if it requires effort).

  1. These seem like policies that, while they have "defaults" in common, would be handled by entirely different parts of a country's government (and different state governments, etc.). Any one of these projects could be a reasonable thing for a group of people to try, but I don't think there are many logistical s
... (read more)
KevinO's Shortform

A new-to-me take on the Amazon. Claims deforestation would lead to changing rain patterns "from Argentina up to the American midwest", "which means that Amazon dieback would disrupt/destroy water and food supplies across much of the western hemisphere". The article talks about the state of journalism, climate strategy,  and climate science. 

sanjush's Shortform

Is anyone aware of previous writings by EAs on founding think tanks as a way of having an impact over the long-term?

In the UK,  I think the Fabian Society and the Centre for Policy Studies are continuing to influence British politics long after the deaths of their founders.

abrahamrowe's Shortform

Following up with some thoughts I originally had in response to saulius' List of ways in which cost-effectiveness estimates can be misleading. Not sure if there has been other write ups of this effect.

If we incentivize charities' to act as cost-effectively as possible, and if they operate in coordination with other groups working on the same issue, it seems like we might expect in many cases what's best for an individual charities' cost-effectiveness to be bad for the overall cost-effectiveness of the space. This issue is compounded if multiple EA / highly... (read more)

antimonyanthony's Shortform

Some reasons not to primarily argue for veganism on health/climate change grounds

I've often heard animal advocates claim that since non-vegans are generally more receptive to arguments from health benefits and reducing climate impact, we should prioritize those arguments, in order to reduce farmed animal suffering most effectively.

On its face, this is pretty reasonable, and I personally don't care intrinsically about how virtuous people's motivations for going vegan are. Suffering is suffering, no matter its sociological cause.

But there are some reasons I'... (read more)

3Dan Hageman11dQuick comment. With respect to your first point, this has always struck me as one of the better points as to why non ethical arguments should primarily avoided when it comes to making the case for veganism. However, after reading Tobias Leenaert's 'How to Create a Vegan World: A Pragmatic Approach', I've become a bit more agnostic on this notion. He notes a few studies from The Humane League that show that red-meat reducers/avoiders tend to eat less chicken than your standard omnivore. He also referenced a few studies from Nick Cooney's book, Veganomics, which covers some of this on p. 107-111. Combined with the overall impact non-ethical vegans could have on supply/demand for other vegan products (and their improvement in quality), I've been a bit less worried about this reason. I think your other reasons are all extremely important and underrated, though, so still lean overall that the ethical argument should be relied on when possible :)

Wow, that's promising news! Thanks for sharing.

MichaelA's Shortform

Some ideas for projects to improve the long-term future

In January, I spent ~1 hour trying to brainstorm relatively concrete ideas for projects that might help improve the long-term future. I later spent another ~1 hour editing what I came up with for this shortform. This shortform includes basically everything I came up with, not just a top selection, so not all of these ideas will be great. I’m also sure that my commentary misses some important points. But I thought it was worth sharing this list anyway.

The ideas vary in the extent to which the bottleneck... (read more)

"Research or writing assistance for researchers (especially senior ones) at orgs like FHI, Forethought, MIRI, CHAI"

As a senior research scholar at FHI, I would find this valuable if the assistant was competent and the arrangement was low cost to me (in terms of time, effort, and money). I haven't tried to set up anything like this since I expect finding someone competent, working out the details, and managing them would not be low cost, but I could imagine that if someone else (such as BERI) took care of details, it very well may be low cost. I support eff... (read more)

Linch's Shortform

Edit: By figuring out  ethics I mean both right and wrong in the abstract but also what the world empirically looks like so you know what is right and wrong in the particulars of a situation, with an emphasis on the latter.

I think a lot about ethics. Specifically, I think a lot about "how do I take the best action (morally), given the set of resources (including information) and constraints (including motivation) that I have." I understand that in philosophical terminology this is only a small subsection of applied ethics, and yet I spend a lot of tim... (read more)

DonyChristie's Shortform

I am seeking funding so I can work on my collective action project over the next year without worrying about money so much. If this interests you, you can book a call with me here. If you know nothing about me, one legible accomplishment of mine is creating the EA Focusmate group, which has 395 members as of writing.

MichaelA's Shortform

Note: This shortform is now superseded by a top-level post I adapted it into. There is no longer any reason to read the shortform version.

Book sort-of-recommendations

Here I list all the EA-relevant books I've read or listened to as audiobooks since learning about EA, in roughly descending order of how useful I perceive/remember them being to me. 

I share this in case others might find it useful, as a supplement to other book recommendation lists. (I found Rob Wiblin, Nick Beckstead, and Luke Muehlhauser's lists very useful.) That said, this isn't exact... (read more)

4Aaron Gertler16dI recommend making this a top-level post. I think it should be one of the most-upvoted posts on the "EA Books" tag, but I can't tag it as a Shortform post.

I had actually been thinking I should probably do that sometime, so your message inspired me to pull the trigger and do it now. Thanks! 

(I also made a few small improvements/additions while I was at it.)

MichaelA's Shortform

Preferences for the long-term future [an abandoned research idea]

Note: This is a slightly edited excerpt from my 2019 application to the FHI Research Scholars Program.[1] I'm unsure how useful this idea is. But twice this week I felt it'd be slightly useful to share this idea with a particular person, so I figured I may as well make a shortform of it. 

Efforts to benefit the long-term future would likely gain from better understanding what we should steer towards, not merely what we should steer away from. This could allow more targeted actions with be... (read more)

Prabhat Soni's Shortform

Socrates' case against democracy

Socrates makes the following argument:

  1. Just like we only allow skilled pilots to fly airplanes, licensed doctors to operate on patients or trained firefighters to use fire enignes, similarly we should only allow informed voters to vote in elections.
  2. "The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter". Half of American adults don’t know that each state gets two senators and two thirds don’t know w
... (read more)
1evelynciara1moWhat's the proposed policy change? Making understanding of elections a requirement to vote?

Yep, that's what comes to my mind atleast :P

KevinO's Shortform

Long term-ist book that I missed: "The Good Ancestor: How To Think Long Term in a Short-Term World" by Roman Krznaric,  released in October 2020. (The US version has a different subtitle.)

And the TED Talk

I just started listening to the audiobook. I'm about 8 minutes in and he's already mentioning existential risk from AI and pandemics. In the next lines he mentions Bostrom and alludes to Ord. He draws a parallel between colonialism's disregard for indigenous populations and the practice of ignoring future people.

Edit: after the intro we start to veer ... (read more)

James Montavon's Shortform

National Year of Service for Free College as an EA Idea

This is mostly anecdotal and n of 1; interested to hear the community's thoughts. 

  1. During high school, I went on mission trips through my church. One I credit with starting me thinking about EA type trade offs and values- we went to Guatemala, and spent the first week working with La Casa del Alfarero working with the absolute poorest of the poor, people living and working inside of the Guatemala City garbage dump. This organization did real research into what interventions they could do to most he
... (read more)

Point (1) was a well-told story! Very interesting to read.

This kind of idea seems like it could be net-positive, but any major national policy change with no strong advocates (there are others who want this, but I haven't seen any show up in the news for years) isn't likely to be the kind of project an EA-aligned organization could pursue; our community is too tiny to even register as an "interest group".

...if it gets people exposed to the world of the global poor...

I've always seen advocates for other forms of this plan discuss service within one's countr... (read more)

RogerAckroyd's Shortform

I think there might be some interest among the EA community in recent social media discussions about Scott Alexander and SlateStarCodex. My impression is that among some committed leftists the movement will face suspiscion rooted in its support from rich people, its current demographic profile, because some leftists are suspiscious of rationality itself and because the movement might detract from the idea that the causes popular now among leftists are also objectively the most important issues facing the world. 

evelynciara's Shortform

Matt Yglesias gets EA wrong :(

What EAs think is that people should make decisions guided by a rigorous empirical evaluation based on consequentialist criteria.

Ummm, no. Not all EAs are consequentialists (although a large fraction of them are), and most EAs these days understand that "rigorous empirical evaluation" isn't the only way to reason about interventions.

It just gets worse from there:

In other words, effective altruists don’t think you should make charitable contributions to your church (again, relative to the mass public this is the most cont

... (read more)
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