All of ag4000's Comments + Replies

Should we buy coal mines?

Back of the envelope calculation

What readings should we include in a "sequence" on global health and development

As an alternative to "Famine, Affluence, and Morality," there is Peter Unger's Living High and Letting Die, of which Chapter 2 is particularly relevant.  It's more philosophical (this could be a bad thing) and much more comprehensive than Singer's article.

This is the first of our cases:

The Vintage Sedan. Not truly rich, your one luxury in life is a vintage Mercedes sedan that, with much time, attention and money, you've restored to mint condition. In particular, you're pleased by the auto's fine leather seating. One day, you stop at the intersection o

... (read more)
3Pablo2mo
Thanks. A related option would be to list The Singer solution to world poverty [https://www.nytimes.com/1999/09/05/magazine/the-singer-solution-to-world-poverty.html] , which describes both Singer's drowning child example and some of Unger's thought experiments. (I thought that article was pretty powerful when I first read it, but that was over a decade ago.)
Baye's Theorem explained

Thanks for sharing this!   I agree that learning about Bayes' Theorem is important for EAs, and really anyone in the world.  Small typo: it is Bayes' Theorem, not Baye's Theorem, as it's named after Thomas Bayes.

A New Book to Introduce People to Ethical Vegetarianism

I absolutely LOVE these dialogues; they're my go-to introduction to why I think that animal welfare and veganism are so important.  I especially like to have people read them one day at a time, discussing each day with them after they've read it.  The dialogues are engaging and far more comprehensive for the size than anything else I know. 

One criticism I have is that the dialogues don't mention much the conditions in which animals on factory farms live.  I find that one bottleneck is that people don't always believe that factory farmin... (read more)

3WilliamKiely4mo
Perhaps this should be added to the main post.
Most successful EA elevator pitches?

Does the short causal pitch not run the risk of limiting EA's scope too much to philanthropy?  To me, it seems to miss the core of EA: figuring out how to better improve the world, given the resources we have.

What self-help topics would you like better research/ resources on?
Answer by ag4000Jan 19, 202210

This is sort of vague, but I'd like to see more about whether/how to induce mindset shifts.  For example, for decreasing procrastination, there are sort of "quick fix" methods (e.g., blocking websites, creating routines) and others that try to get you to change your mindset or motivations (e.g., Nate Soares's Replacing Guilt).  I'm not sure whether there is any research on how these two broad methods of self-help compare, but I'd be interested to hear.  For example, to what extent are these approaches complementary?  In the procrastination example, does blocking websites effectively decrease people's urges to find distractions, inducing a mindset shift, or does it simply cause them to find new distractions?

What are some artworks relevant to EA?
Answer by ag4000Jan 17, 202211

Ted Chiang's "The Lifecycle of Software Objects" (included in one of his collections of stories, Exhalation) is a fascinating exploration of digital sentience.

Apuleius's The Golden Ass is an ancient novel (the only complete surviving Roman novel!) in which the protagonist accidentally turns into an ass.  Although I haven't read the novel, Peter Singer seems to think that it is a good vehicle for conveying empathy towards other animals.

J.M. Coetzee's The Lives of Animals is a peculiar story of a novelist (much like Coetzee himself) delivering a set of ... (read more)

3Lizka4mo
I absolutely love that Ted Chiang story (and so many of the others, in both that collection and the other [https://blackwells.co.uk/bookshop/product/9781529039436?gC=098f6bcd4]). Thank you so much for the other recommendations!
Please complete a survey to influence EU animal protection policies

Sorry if this is a very dumb question -- can non-EU people fill out the survey/will it make any difference if they do?  For example, I see that a small number of people from the US filled out the survey.  Are those just people from NGOs/consumer organizations or food business operators?

Thanks for the question! Yes, non-EU people can fill out the survey. I think that it has sufficient expected value for it to be worth doing for most EAs interested in animal welfare because participation offers a small chance of having a very big positive effect by tipping interpretations in a positive direction. This blog post provides more information, including a recommendation for specifically for Non-EU voters.  

EA outreach to high school competitors

Unfortunately, at this point I have relatively limited contact with current LDers -- there are some I know, but not very well.  I do know some people who are important within the LD community (e.g., run debate camps or major tournaments), but I am not very involved in LD anymore.

4ChanaMessinger5mo
If any of the people who run debate camps or major tournaments are into EA or open to it, I'd be excited about talking to them or intro-ing them to other people, fwiw.
EA outreach to high school competitors

I also wanted to chime in about debate.  For context, I did Lincoln-Douglas debate (LD) competitively throughout high school.  

I think many LDers could be good targets for outreach.  Many ideas from EA come up extensively in LD.  In particular: different moral theories and arguments for/against them, cost/benefit analysis, moral hedging to deal with moral uncertainty, arguments for existential risk reduction, and focus on existential risks.  Note that debaters bastardize many of these arguments and concepts, but I think this introd... (read more)

1ChanaMessinger5mo
Cool! Are you still in contact with friends still in high school and doing LD?
How Should Free Will Theories Impact Effective Altruism?

I'm no expert in this topic and haven't read Sam Harris's argument, but there are a couple of things I usually bear in mind:

1. If you're uncertain about whether determinism is true (that is, the probability you assign to hard determinism is less than 1), then it seems you should still act as though you are not determined.  Then we can apply reasoning like Pascal's Wager -- if determinism is false, then sadistic torture is terrible; if it's right, then we are indifferent.  Hence it seems that we should still act on the side of morality still havin... (read more)

1Oscar Delaney1y
Exactly, 1 has been the approach I have taken; as long as I am unsure I err on the side of safety and believing in morally large universes including those with free will. That said, it would be interesting if many EAs were similar and thought something like "there's only a ~10% chance free will and hence morality is real, so very likely my life is useless, but I am trying anyway". I think that is a good approach, but would be an odd outcome.
ag4000's Shortform

I was planning to donate some money to a climate cause a few months ago, and I decide to give some money to Giving Green (this was after the post here recommending GG).  There were some problems with the money going through (unrelated to GG), but anyways now I can still decide to send the money elsewhere.  I'm thinking about giving the money elsewhere due to the big post criticizing GG.  However, I still think it's probably a good giving opportunity, given that it's at an important stage of its growth and seems to have gotten a lot of public... (read more)

ag4000's Shortform

Thanks so much! I've been doing some stuff related to GTD, but haven't read the whole book -- will do so.

ag4000's Shortform

Sorry if this isn't directly related to EA.  What is a good way to measure one's own productivity?  I tend to measure the amount of time that I spend doing productive activities, but the discussion here seems to make a convincing case that measuring hours worked isn't the best method to do so.  

7Aaron Gertler1y
This is a really deep topic, but certainly worth asking about; if you're working on an impactful plan, raising your productivity raises your impact. My favorite starting points for thinking about productivity: * Productivity: A summary of what we know [https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/P3zrurj5hHKFKDL3M/productivity-working-towards-a-summary-of-what-we-know] (LessWrong) * The book "Getting Things Done" (which is referenced in the above post, but is quite powerful on its own -- the best book I've read about productivity, out of many) * The Complice blog and app [https://blog.complice.co/] (a bit different from "standard" productivity systems, but as a self-contained system, it works well for many people I know)