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Why don't we have an "Effective App"?

See, e.g., Ribon - an app that gives you points (“ribons”) for reading positive news (e.g. “handicapped walks again thanks to exoskeleton”) sponsored by corporations; then you choose one of the TLYCS charities, and your points are converted into a donation.

Ribon is a Brazilian for-profit; they claim to donate 70% of what they receive from sponsors, but I haven’t found precise stats. It has skyrocketed this year: from their informed impact, I estimate they have donated ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

The Life You Can Save is working with an app-development company called Meepo (which is doing pro bono work) to build a non-profit donation app, which is currently in beta. You can learn more about this project, and how to download the beta version, here.

Andrew Gelman argues that scientists’ proposals for fixing science are themselves not always very scientific.

If you’ve gone to the trouble to pick up (or click on) this volume in the first place, you’ve probably already seen, somewhere or another, most of the ideas I could possibly propose on how science should be fixed. My focus here will not be on the suggestions themselves but rather on what are our reasons for thinking these proposed innovations might be good ideas. The unfortunate paradox is that the very aspects of “junk s
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The Nobel Prize in Economics awarded to Abhijit Banerjee, Esther Duflo and Michael Kremer "for their experimental approach to alleviating global poverty".

Michael Kremer is a founding member of Giving What We Can 🙂

A series of polls by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs show that Americans increasingly support free trade and believe that free trade is good for the U.S. economy (87%, up from 59% in 2016). This is probably a reaction to the negative effects and press coverage of President Trump's trade wars - anecdotally, I have seen a lot of progressives who would otherwise not care about or support free trade criticize policies such as Trump's steel tariffs as reckless.

I believe this presents a unique window of opportunity to educate the American public ... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

AI policy is probably less neglected than you think it is.

There are more than 50 AI policy jobs in the UK government. When one's advertised, it gets 50-100 applicants.

The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada is really excited about funding AI policy research. http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/programs-programmes/fellowships/doctoral-doctorat-eng.aspx

AI policy is very important, but at this point it's also very mainstream.

8jpaddison7d My model is that most of the people applying for those jobs are not interested in x risk reduction. So if I land one of those jobs, I'm one of a very few people in the world doing government ai policy with an eye towards x risk reduction. So you could say "AI policy with an eye towards x risk reduction" is neglected, but if I were to say "AI policy" is neglected that's what I'd mean. And then, something something pr something something and I think you have why it's not more clear.

It's true that few civil servants are currently thinking about x-risks from AI.

If you believe artificial general intelligence won't emerge for several decades, you might be happy that there will be hundreds of experts with decades worth of experience at that point, and not worry about doing it yourself.

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.)

8Habryka8d This seems about a factor of 2 lower than I expected. My guess would be that this just includes the actual cost of fixing formatting errors, not the cost of fitting your ideas to fit the formatting at all (i.e. having to write all the different sections, even when it doesn't make sense, or being forced to use LaTeX in the first place). (Note: I did not yet get around to reading the paper, so this is just a first impression, as well as registering a prediction)

Yes, one could define broader notions of "formatting", in which case the cost would be higher. They use a narrower notion.

For the purpose of this work, formatting was defined as total time related to formatting the body of the manuscript, figures, tables, supplementary files, and references. Respondents were asked not to count time spent on statistical analysis, writing, or editing.

The authors think that there are straightforward reforms which could reduce the time spent on formatting, in this narrow sense.

[I]t is hoped that a growing number o
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We're planning Q4 goals for the Forum.

Do you use the Forum? (Probably, considering.) Do you have feelings about the Forum?

If you send me a PM, one of the CEA staffers running the Forum (myself or Aaron) will set up a call call where you can tell me all the things you think we should do.

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It works fairly well right now, with the main complaints (images, tables) being limitations of our current editor.

Copying images from public Gdocs to the non-markdown editor works fine.

4Khorton9d This doesn't fix the example I put forward, but it does make the search function more understandable and less frustrating. Thanks!
2Habryka9d Oh, interesting. LessWrong always had that, and I never even thought about that maybe being a configuration difference between the two sites.

Reading Multiagent Models of Mind and considering the moral patienthood of different cognitive processes:

A trolly is headed toward an healthy individual lying carelessly on the track. You are next to a lever, and can switch the trolly to a second track, but on that track there is an individual with a split brain. What do you do?

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:... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

https://collapseos.org An operating system that should work from scrap materials in the case of civilizational collapse. Very interesting. It turns out that there is an active subreddit on civilizational collapse r/collapse. It seems that WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIEEE!

Philosopher Eric Schwitzgebel argues that good philosophical arguments should be such that the target audience ought to be moved by the argument, but that such arguments are difficult to make regarding animal consciousness, since there is no common ground.

The Common Ground Problem is this. To get an argument going, you need some common ground with your intended audience. Ideally, you start with some shared common ground, and then maybe you also introduce factual considerations from science or elsewhere that you expect they will (or ought to) accept, and th
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Hostile review of Stuart Russell's new book Human Compatible in Nature. (I disagree with the review.)

Russell, however, fails to convince that we will ever see the arrival of a “second intelligent species”. What he presents instead is a dizzyingly inconsistent account of “intelligence” that will leave careful readers scratching their heads. His definition of AI reduces this quality to instrumental rationality. Rational agents act intelligently, he tells us, to the degree that their actions aim to achieve their objectives, he
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Just a thought: there's the common advice that fighting all out with the utmost desperation makes sense for very brief periods, a few weeks or months, but doing so for longer leads to burnout. So you get sayings like "it's a marathon, not a sprint." But I wonder if length of the "fight"/"war" isn't the only variable in sustainable effort. Other key ones might be the degree of ongoing feedback and certainty about the cause.

Though I expect a multiyear war which is an existential threat to your home and family to b... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

2Stefan_Schubert25d It seems to me that many jobs that involve more immediate concerns have high rates of burnouts. I would guess that's the case for, e.g. nurses (though I haven't found statistics comparing different occupations). Thus I'm not sure that jobs whose impact is more distant and uncertain generally have higher rates of burnout. That means that if the EA and X-risk community have higher rates of burnout, that may not be due to that factor, or at least not to that alone.

Ruby can ask his former ICU nurse wife about that. My impression from having Miranda as a coworker is that yes, ICU nurses did have high rates of burnout.

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

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This was quite an interesting point I hadn't considered before. Looking forward to reading more.

Rolf Degen, summarizing part of Barbara Finlay's "The neuroscience of vision and pain":

Humans may have evolved to experience far greater pain, malaise and suffering than the rest of the animal kingdom, due to their intense sociality giving them a reasonable chance of receiving help.

From the paper:

Several years ago, we proposed the idea that pain, and sickness behaviour had become systematically increased in humans compared with our primate relatives, because human intense sociality allowed that we could ask for help and have a reasonable cha
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[Epistemic status: Thinking out loud]

If the evolutionary logic here is right, I'd naively also expect non-human animals to suffer more to the extent they're (a) more social, and (b) better at communicating specific, achievable needs and desires.

There are reasons the logic might not generalize, though. Humans have fine-grained language that lets us express very complicated propositions about our internal states. That puts a lot of pressure on individual humans to have a totally ironclad, consistent "story" they can express to others. I&#... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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, e... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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2saulius1mo Honest question: are there examples of philosophical problems that were solved in the last 50 years? And I mean solved by doing philosophy not by doing mostly unrelated experiments (like this one [https://www.thevintagenews.com/2018/06/18/riddle/]). I imagine that even if some philosophers felt they answered a question, other would dispute it. More importantly, the solution would likely be difficult to understand and hence it would be of limited value. I'm not sure I'm right here.
2saulius1mo After a bit more googling I found this [https://philosophy.stackexchange.com/a/3149] which maybe shows that there have been philosophical problems solved recently. I haven't read about that specific problem though. It's difficult to imagine a short paper solving the hard problem of consciousnesses though.

Is there a "scientific method"?

If you learned about science in school, or read the Wikipedia page on the scientific method, you might have encountered the idea that there is a single thing called “The Scientific Method.” Different formulations of the scientific method are described differently, but it involves generating hypotheses, making predictions, running experiments, evaluating the results and then submitting them for peer review.

The idea is that all scientists follow something like this method.

The idea of there being a “scientific method” exists for

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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.

I want to write a post saying why Aaron and I* think the Forum is valuable, which technical features currently enable it to produce that value, and what other features I’m planning on building to achieve that value. However, I've wanted to write that post for a long time and the muse of public transparency and openness (you remember that one, right?) hasn't visited.

Here's a more mundane but still informative post, about how we relate to the codebase we forked off of. I promise the space metaphor is necessary. I don't know whether to apo... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

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 remember... (Read more)(Click to expand thread. ⌘F to Expand All)Cmd/Ctrl F to expand all comments on this post

Also, I feel that as the author, I get more credit than is due, it’s more of a team effort. Other staff members of Rethink Charity review my posts, help me to select topics, and make sure that I have to worry about nothing else but writing. And in some cases posts get a lot of input from other people. E.g., Kieran Greig was the one who pointed out the problem of fish stocking to me and then he gave extensive feedback on the post. My CEE of corporate campaigns benefited tremendously from talking with many experts on the subject who generously shared their k

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17saulius1mo Thanks JP! I feel I should point out that it's now basically my full time job to write for the EA forum, which is why there are quite many posts by me :)
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