Finance Lead at CEA. Interested in cause prioritisation, interactions between cause areas, global catastrophic risk, and institutional changes that could help shape the long-term future. Also likes coffee and watching The Simpsons.

Louis_Dixon's Comments

AMA or discuss my 80K podcast episode: Ben Garfinkel, FHI researcher

Great interview, thanks for some really thought-provoking ideas. For the brain in the box section, it seemed like you were saying that we'd expect future worlds to have fairly uniform distributions of capabilities of AI systems, and so we'd learn from other similar cases. How uniform do you think the spread of capabilities of AI systems is now, and how wide do you think the gaps have to be in the future for the 'brain in a box' scenario to be possible?

Investing to Give Beginner Advice?

Interesting, thanks. For point 2 - is there some trade-off from the instalments being spread over time against the time they're in the market for? On one hand, you have investing £10K in one payment and leaving it for 5 years, and on the other hand investing £2k each year for 5 years. But could there be a middle-ground, some function of the variability and average returns, e.g. spreading the £10k in monthly payments in the first year, then leaving it for the next four, that does better than both extremes?

For point 1 - from very quickly skimming these papers (and as an amateur) it looks like the pound-cost averaging approach is beaten by other more complex approaches, but it still seems to be better than lump-sum. Is that your understanding?

Is there a timing approach you'd recommend?

Investing to Give Beginner Advice?

I'd add that since timing the markets seems impossible, drip-feed investing seems to be a good idea because of something called pound-cost averaging. You can do this easily with Vanguard by setting up a direct debit. I've also heard the US and UK personal finance subreddits recommended by some smart people.

Dominic Cummings - An 'Odyssean' Education [review]

Thank you for your thoughtful feedback. I've thought about the points you raise and I think they are all good challenges. I agree that Cummings raises interesting and relevant points in a range of areas.

I think you and I have different views on several points. The most important one seems to be that I think the piece at times aspires to represent the whole, even as a sketch ('An Odyssean education'). And my view is that two of the most important areas (if I were writing such an essay) would be voting and political systems, and climate change, neither of which I feel get sufficient attention in the piece. It seems that on each of these topics you take a different viewpoint, which I respect. Again, thanks for your feedback. Unless there's much else you think we can do to resolve this difference, I'd probably leave it there.

Dominic Cummings - An 'Odyssean' Education [review]

1a,1b. My interpretation is that the essay aims to provide a sketch of what should be covered in an education, e.g. p7: 'In order to provide some structure to such an enterprise, a schema of seven big areas and some material is sketched'. I think it is a poor sketch.

1c. I think that if DGB claimed to be a sketch of the most important areas there are, and it missed out a huge area, e.g. global poverty, then it could be rightly challenged as a poor guide.

2. In the review I mention that his digressions into neurons and processing power draws false conclusions. He is also particularly scornful of the social sciences, and arts and humanities.

3. It is true that he briefly discusses voting in a section on decision-making and in an endnote, but in both places it is incidental to his point rather than a main topic. A discussion of voting and democracy is absent from the section I was expecting it, ' 7. Political economy, philosophy, and avoiding catastrophes.', and I cannot see it covered elsewhere in the piece.

Dominic Cummings - An 'Odyssean' Education [review]

Thanks for your feedback! I agree that people should read the essay and make up their minds for themselves.

To address the points you raised:

  1. As a set of notes, it claims to address the most important economic and political priorities, and I think this is the criteria on which it should be judged. My view is that it fails to do so.

  2. My main beef with Cummings is that he overreaches in areas he's not familiar with, and he has uncharitable disdain for the work of others, and I think this is consistent throughout the piece.

  3. In my view there is a tension between his admiration of big government projects, but his failure to talk about democracy and link government activity to public needs. If I rewrite the piece I will make this more explicit.

New data suggests the ‘leaders’’ priorities represent the core of the community

I'm interested in why climate change isn't called out as topic in the chart above - is it merged into 'other longtermist' or 'other near term' in the charts above? In the 2019 survey, it was the second highest priority (and the fastest growing one), and I understand that 80K has updated (also explicitly here) to seeing it as part of the longtermist portfolio.

What will 80,000 Hours provide (and not provide) within the effective altruism community?

Thanks for the reply Ben. It's great to hear that you're looking at producing more content and doing more engagement in this area!

Looking at the old cause selection list from 2017-18 (link) I notice that climate change was ranked #9, below factory farming and improving global health. From your more recent cause prio from 2019 (link), it seems that it's now somewhere in the top seven. Can I ask what's changed to cause 80K to update their cause prioritisation?

What will 80,000 Hours provide (and not provide) within the effective altruism community?

Thanks, this is useful. You mentioned above that you're planning to list more roles looking at biosecurity and climate change. What are 80K's current thoughts and potential plans, if any, in relation to climate change?

US Non-Profit? Get Free* Money From the Gov on 3 Apr!

Hi Peter,

I'd like to make the eligibility criteria clear to any prospective applicants:

  • "The Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll." (link)
  • The boards and directors of the business have to sign in good faith that "Current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the Applicant" (link)
  • Providing misleading or incomplete information is a federal crime

This is an emergency support loan exclusively for businesses to retain workers they'd otherwise be forced to make redundant. At the moment, my interpretation of your summary is that you could make this point more prominent. At the moment, it's only included in the required documents section.

The wording 'make sure to mention that uncertainty of current economic conditions makes necessary the loan request' I think could be misinterpreted as leading people to exaggerate this factor, though I appreciate this may not be your intention.

I think it would be safer to say that 'this loan is exclusively available to businesses which are struggling to maintain their staff on the payroll and meet bill payments, and if this condition applies to your organisation, then please report this accurately in the documents you provide'.

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