81Joined Jul 2020


Punching Utilitarians in the Face

I think this gets at something important, but:

The “moral intuition” is clearly not generated by reliable intuitions because it abuses: 

a. Incomprehensibly large or small numbers 

b. Known cognitive biases 

c. Wildly unintuitive premises 

This list also applies to prominent arguments for longtermism and existential risk mitigation, right? For example, Greaves & MacAskill think that the charge of fanaticism is one of the most serious problems with strong longtermism, which "tend[s] to involve tiny probabilities of enormous benefits." To the extent that's true, the extreme thought experiments seem to capture something significant. If they reveal a failure of utilitarianism, strong longtermism may fail too.  (I realize there are other, non-longtermist arguments for x-risk reduction.)

What should I ask Alan Hájek, philosopher of probability, Bayesianism, expected value and counterfatuals?

Does he have a preferred resolution of the St. Petersburg Paradox

Or, put another way, should a probabilist Benthamite be risk-neutral on social welfare? (On my mind because I just listened to the Cowen-SBF interview where SBF takes the risk-neutral position.)

A new media outlet focused in part on philanthropy

Thanks for sharing, Teddy. Just read the SBF piece and looking forward to reading more. 

EA is great, but I think it could use more and better external scrutiny. A lot of the criticism it gets right now is either silly (e.g., "this is just a way to make billionaires more powerful") or not especially helpful (e.g., "utilitarianism is obviously false"). Engagement that takes EA seriously but keeps a critical distance and isn't afraid to question the big players is really valuable IMO.

Podcast: Samo Burja on the war in Ukraine, avoiding nuclear war and the longer term implications

Some reasonable points but overall I did not find this insightful. 

A few examples of Burja's sloppy analysis: (1) a "limited no-fly zone" in western Ukraine would be militarily irrelevant (Russia isn't flying fixed wing aircraft over these areas) and would still be seen by Russia as a major escalation ("how do we know NATO will stop there?"); (2) the idea that China has gotten "everything it wants" is flat wrong, apart from anything else it's clearly not in China's interest to see a remilitarized Europe and Japan or an economically wrecked Russia; (3) Burja offers no support for his claim that the west would care much less about an invasion of Taiwan; and (4) a prediction as surprising as war between France and Turkey (both NATO members!) needs more than the zero evidence given.

Burja's implicit theory seems to be some kind of realism, but he never spelled it out, and he's not consistent about it. This point, for example, doesn't fit in a realist framework: "It's, Russia has invaded our friend, and we want to protect this state or at least help it defend itself."

I think EAs would do better reading more traditional IR experts than people like Burja, even if they position themselves as rationalist-adjacent.

Takeaways on US Policy Careers (Part 2): Career Advice

"National security law schools:

  • In DC: Georgetown, George Washington, George Mason
  • Others: University of Maryland, University of Virginia"

One law student's view FWIW: these choices may have some national security career benefit beyond other similarly ranked law schools, but in general, I strongly recommend going to a higher ranked school, and if that isn't possible, picking another option, such as a masters. 

Graduates of the top few law schools—Yale most of all, then Harvard, Columbia, UVA, and Georgetown—dominate the top federal government nat sec jobs held by lawyers. For example, of the last 12 national security advisers (since 1993), 3 Yale JDs, 1 Harvard JD, 1 UVA JD, 1 Berkeley JD. Of the last 15 Deputy NSAs (since 1993): 2 Yale JDs, 1 Georgetown JD, 1 Columbia JD, 1 UVA JD. Of the last 9 (since 1993) Secretaries of State: 1 Yale, 1 Harvard JD, 1 Columbia JD, 1 Boston College JD.*

*Not counting interim/actings.

Rethink Priorities - 2021 Impact and 2022 Strategy

Can you give more details on the $$ you moved in EU animal welfare advocacy/funding? What kinds of approaches did it move from and to? Any exact numbers and specific organizations you can share?

I poked around your website but couldn't see more on this—apologies if I missed it!