All of Louis_Dixon's Comments + Replies

Some longtermist fiction

Thanks! Did you think it was worth a read?

2DavidNash3moIt's sometimes a bit of a slog but also relatively short and I was constantly impressed by the scope of the book and the variety of interesting ideas for something written in the 1930's.
Some longtermist fiction

Interesting. OK, I added a link to this as an answer. Thanks for suggesting!

What novels, poetry, comics have EA themes, plots or characters?

I put down some fiction with a bit of a longtermist bent that I enjoyed here

Some longtermist fiction

I don't think any of the protagonists / characters in these books are "an EA" (whatever that means) in the way that question seems to be looking for. 

2Nathan Young4moI think that's a typo. I think it's means to be "on EA".
Some longtermist fiction

Fascinating, thanks for sharing!

MSc in Risk and Disaster Science? (UCL) - Does this fit the EA path?

Thanks - happy to help. 


1) You're right that pandemics and climate change are both part of the course. Taking the figures in the Precipice at face value,  the biggest risks are unaligned AI and engineered pandemics. From the unit list at UCL, and the biographies of the unit leaders on the 'natural and anthropogenic risks' unit, Joanna Faure Walker (a geophysicist) and Punam Yadav (who focuses on humanitarian projects), I couldn't see any specific content on weaponisation and conflict, which are topics I'm more interested in. That is not to say th... (read more)

1yazanasad6mo1a) Thanks for the Precipice link, i didn't know they quantified risks like this. 1b) I've just received an e-mail response from admissions stating they have "expertise in digital public health, climate change and catastrophic risk modelling but we don not consider existential risk in the module....it could be suggested as a topic for your MSc dissertation". So +1 in regards to no content on weaponisation and conflict 2) haha yes I'm sure I'll do many different things! 3) Yes I applied for the Risk programme because there were only 5 days left and wanted to reduce future regret. I won't apply to many courses. Thanks for the suggestion in regards to writing a summary - sounds like a good idea!
MSc in Risk and Disaster Science? (UCL) - Does this fit the EA path?

Hi there, 

[Some unofficial thoughts from my own research before considering whether I should do a course like this one to be a civil servant. Other people come from different perspectives which could change the conclusions for them]

I wanted to learn more about global risks, and had the aim of working on security policy. I spent several months researching courses, speaking to people at the departments. There are quite a lot that I think could be good - this list are all places in London, but they seemed to be the best UK ones I could find when I was lo... (read more)

Thanks so much for this response! 

1) It does seem as though pandemics are now part of the agenda for the UCL course since 2020 (and climate change too) but you are right about it being focussed more on natural risks. I will e-mail/call their team to clarify about this and to also see if I can veer towards anthropogenic risks if I decide to take the programme.

2) I didn't know about the Kings College courses. It's great to know that this seems to be a recommended course by the community and I will look into it further. The Science and International Secu... (read more)

Mundane trouble with EV / utility

Thanks for posting this Ben, and great to see the discussions. Wishing you all the best!

New Top EA Causes for 2021?

Strongly upvoted for the link to the Castle. Btw in one podcast I'm pretty sure I heard Wiblin say "the general vibe of the thing"

European Master's Programs in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and related fields

Ah ok, no worries. I'm considering the course - do you know anyone who's currently on it?

A ranked list of all EA-relevant (audio)books I've read

Thanks Aaron. Sure - "perhaps you're not aware" was not intended to be condescending at all. And yes, the later sentence you wrote was the tone I was hoping for. 

European Master's Programs in Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, and related fields

Thanks for putting this together. I'd be interested in the UCL write-up - is there an estimate on when that might be out please? 

1Master Programs ML/AI8moHello, unfortunately, we do not expect this writeup to be created anymore. We deleted the promise from the article for now. Best wishes, Leon
A ranked list of all EA-relevant (audio)books I've read

This is a nice idea,  but I agree with Hauke that this risks increasing the extent to which EA is an echo chamber.  Perhaps you're not aware of the (over)hype around some of these books in EA.  

 I think  Rationally Speaking is particularly good at engaging with a range of people and perspectives.  

4Aaron Gertler9moSorry for the late response — meant to publish this just after I read the comment. It's not especially bad or anything, I'm just catching up on moderation. First: Yes, Rationally Speaking is great! Second: As a moderator, I read "perhaps you're not aware" as a bit condescending, and I don't think it follows from the post. I don't see why "creating a list of brief book reviews/ratings" implies that someone isn't aware of what is or isn't overhyped: * If I read a book and like it, that might lead me to believe the hype is deserved (some "hyped" things are in fact great, and more people should do them). * If I instead thought the book was bad and say so, that actively fights against the hype — a positive outcome! I wish the comment had read more like "I think some of these books are overhyped, and this list might exacerbate that effect because..." instead of implying that the author was missing some important fact.
Books on authoritarianism, Russia, China, NK, democratic backsliding, etc.?

Yeah I haven't read any of his stuff, just mentioning that he works on totalitarianism and authoritarianism. Not having read The Road to Unfreedom, it looks like he identifies trends in several geographies which could be useful for the questions you're looking at. 

2MichaelA9moIn case this info is useful to future readers: * I've now listened to On Tyranny and watched a 1-hour lecture from Snyder called "The Road to Unfreedom" (so presumably similar content to the book). * It seemed to me that most of what Snyder said was either stuff I already knew, stuff that seemed kind-of obvious or platitude-like, or stuff I was skeptical of * This might be partly due to the book On Tyranny being under 2 hours and the talk being just 1 hour, such that Snyder opted to just give a quick overview of the "basics" of certain things * So I do think this might be fairly useful per minute for someone who knew quite little about things like Hitler and the Soviet Union * But I wouldn't strongly recommend these books, and would probably recommend against them for people who already know a decent amount about these topics * Though I should again note that I haven't actually read The Road to Unfreedom; maybe the book version is better than both the talk and the other book
Books on authoritarianism, Russia, China, NK, democratic backsliding, etc.?

There's also a chapter in Global Catastrophic Risks on the topic, though I forget who wrote it

2MichaelA10moI imagine what you have in mind is Caplan's chapter on The Totalitarian Threat, which I mentioned in another comment [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/RpwjRtcnekzZzQMdb/books-on-authoritarianism-russia-china-nk-democratic?commentId=qARDS5LnyPeSzqcGS] . I'd definitely recommend that to people who haven't read it and are interested in this bundle of topics.
Books on authoritarianism, Russia, China, NK, democratic backsliding, etc.?

Timothy Snyder is an academic looking at this question who has written several books on the topic, e.g. this and this

2MichaelA9moI also just stumbled upon your review and notes on the book How Democracy Ends [ https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/7QDaytzvyH4uNh9GR/review-and-notes-how-democracy-ends-david-runciman] , and found the review and notes interesting, so that book is now also on my list of things to consider reading. So thanks for that post :)
2MichaelA10moThanks! Both books do sound interesting. Though the author's Wikipedia page and the Wikipedia page for The Road to Unfreedom [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Road_to_Unfreedom] seem to suggest the author often gets mixed/negative reviews from other scholars. But it's hard to say what to make of that without more thoroughly checking the ratio of positive to negative reviews or actually reading the reviews. And I guess he's writing on unusually controversy-prone topics. I think I'll listen to the On Tyranny audiobook (since it's under 2 hours), and watch a talk from him on The Road to Unfreedom [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p03X8Vk7zdI], and decide after that whether it's worth reading the full latter book or another book by him. I assume you mean he's looking at the topics I pointed to other than the risk of stable and/or global authoritarianism? Or do you also know of work he's done that seems to have that specifically in mind in a level-headed way? (I say "in a level-headed way" because I'd guess some authors will say things that sound like they're about stable and/or global authoritarianism but aren't really thought through much, and are more like hyperbole.)
1Louis_Dixon10moThere's also a chapter in Global Catastrophic Risks on the topic, though I forget who wrote it
Investing to Give Beginner Advice?

Someone shared this link with me which supports your view  that lump-sum is generally better, especially if you don't have diminishing utility.  

Donating to EA funds from Germany

Hey - I'm the finance lead at CEA, of which EA funds is one part. Anyone can donate to EA Funds, and you should be able to do this from Germany. Are you concerned that doing so means you're not donating tax-efficiently since the funds aren't registered charities in Germany? 

If so, my colleague Sam wrote this post arguing that donating effectively might mean ignoring tax efficiency, and I agree, depending on your alternative. 

For example, if you were planning to donate only to AMF, and if there was a German AMF you were planning to donate to (I do... (read more)

Careers Questions Open Thread

No idea - I think it most depends on the specifics of your situation. On average I think people who start organisations later in their life using their experience and contacts are likely to be more successful.  

Careers Questions Open Thread

I think staying where you are seems like a good option. There seems to be an assumption that just because you stay in the same job for the next few years you'll automatically be there for the next 15 - is that really true? Also maybe you could make a public commitment to leave after X years, or donate your income above a certain level to avoid getting lured in by the money side of it. 

fiction about AI risk

Interesting, thanks for posting about it! 

Careers Questions Open Thread

It sounds like if you've been rejected from studying masters courses then that's useful feedback. Even for people who have done well on those courses, I think there are many more applicants than places to work in philosophy. 

And if you're already trying to overcome really steep odds, by working in academia with eight years working independently, then this might not be the area you're best suited to. 

I don't know about it but there could be work in neuroscience or psychology that you might find interesting. 

Careers Questions Open Thread

I don't think anyone can give you a direct answer - it'll depend on your own personal circumstances, but if you've got savings then I can vouch that option 2 could be good. Have you tried applying for any jobs in that space? 

1Louis_Dixon1ySome jobs here [https://80000hours.org/job-board/?role-type=operations&role-type=manager&role-type=leadership]
Careers Questions Open Thread

Hi Daniel, 

Great to hear from you. Here are some of my own thoughts (not official in any way at all, and people in the community have all sorts of different views). I share your interest in AI safety and climate change. Is there an AI safety community in Germany? If not people thinking about AGI, there's probably some big universities working on near-term control problems that could be interesting. It might be good to meet some other people working in the area. 

Also if you're interested in climate and AI, this a huge field of people working on everything from forecasting to flood prediction to increasing crop yields - have you tried applying for any jobs in that space?

2Daniel Unruh1yThanks a lot for the comment Louis! I'am not sure if there is a AI safety community in Germany, but due to this post I got messages from some Germans who are currently on an AI safety path so luckily they can help me to get in contact with the german AI community. Thanks a lot for the suggestion about the connection between AI and climate, I was not aware of this work area and will inform myself more about this!
Careers Questions Open Thread

Hi Jack! I worked in consulting at EY for four years before joining CEA in operations, and you might find a role in management/leadership/operations interesting. You might find a direct role that's more fun than ETG (I think I did!)

I don't really know anything about the best ETG routes, but one that strikes me that could be big business at the moment is insolvency and restructuring - lots of organisations will be unfortunately going through that so there could be quite  a few roles. 

Also a few friends of mine who were at PwC worked in deals/valua... (read more)

1jackmalde1yThanks Louis. I am continuing to keep a look out for good direct roles as well. I actually did the economics masters with a hope to move away from management-type roles, but I don't want to take them off the table entirely. Unfortunately I just wasn't into what I was doing at PwC (I was doing tech strategy after the grad scheme) and I don't want to do that elsewhere. The money wasn't really that good anyway. Something like deals/valuations seems OK, but it would be a big change for something that I don't think is as much money as top econ consulting / finance roles. I quite like economics so I think econ consulting is a good option for me, but I also don't want to rule out finance which is the area I'm most clueless about at the moment.
Careers Questions Open Thread

That's a tricky one, sorry to hear it. It could just be random chance - plenty of jobs have churn, and I think a surprising amount of doing well in jobs is getting along with other people. I wonder if you had any managers, colleagues, or friends who you think might have any specific feedback? On the other hand, this could just be chance. 

3jack_hopkins1yThanks for your thoughts Louis! I've thought it might somehow be chance, but the last thing I want is to lull myself into that complacency— I figure there must be something more going on. I can't recall any instance of fights or "drama" of any sort, or of missing major deadlines or any other big mistakes. I'm very tension-averse so I'm motivated to either amicably resolve an issue or let it slide if it isn't worth the trouble. Perhaps I should get in the habit of asking managers/colleagues for feedback before I find out I'm not getting renewed— maybe they'd be more willing then to share what mysterious issues I clearly must be having.
Careers Questions Open Thread

I think this is an interesting area of research - I'm not aware of much writing by EAs, but bear in mind the EA community is pretty small compared to the total number of people researching this and related fields across the world - you might find some other organisations or researchers who've looked into this more.

Careers Questions Open Thread

That sounds like a  huge range of options. With an MPP-MBA you might do well in policy. Are there any government or related roles you think you'd be interested in? And is there a particular area you'd like to work in? E.g. if you were more passionate about animal welfare than nuclear security, that would suggest some pretty different career routes. 

Careers Questions Open Thread

Different people in the community will have different views, but my own take is that the capitalism and markets can be great for growth and improving productive capacity but you want to make sure that the benefits are spread throughout society (see the book Why Nations Fail). 

I'm sorry to hear that you're feeling overwhelmed by things. I've felt the same way at time. It's important to look after yourself, take time off, and connect with other people. For me, I love watching the Simpsons, going for runs with my friends, and drinking coffee!

My own take ... (read more)

1anoni1yDear Louis, Thank you for your kind reply. Luckily, I have read the book Why Nations Fail some time ago, the idea that political and economic inclusion prevents stagnation and is better in the long run is appealing. After reading that, I became integrating institutions in my views. You made me realize that the question "what's enough for one's ambitions?" does not have a clear answer. Balancing fun, well-being and impact seems the right way to go. However, it is sometimes hard to accept that (by definition) there is always an impact level we won't ever reach. Coming back to institutions. Do you think I should aim to create them or to help them as an employee?
Careers Questions Open Thread

Have you tried applying for any roles in clean energy? It's an absolutely booming sector, especially if Biden gets the US to rejoin and more things start happening in the US. 

Careers Questions Open Thread

Sounds interesting! I'd say it's worth doing the easy and reversible things first (e.g. trying out stuff within your company), and maybe put in a few applications to jobs like these. You could study international development, but you might get some job offers without needing the masters course. You can always apply to some masters' courses anyway and see what happens. 

Careers Questions Open Thread

They seem like fairly different job offers - are there any other things you might prefer to do? This should depend on how much runway you have and how much income you think you need, but of those two roles it sounds like you're more interested in the health care one ("I'm just not passionate about being in a consumerism industry") and you might learn a lot there. Also if after two years you get bored, then you could always move on, and your role might be quite different if they go through an IPO. 

Careers Questions Open Thread

My rough guess is that option 2 would be more fun and since a lot of these areas have quite a lot of funding, maybe it'd be more your comparative advantage. You mention general management and operations, but I wonder if you have any health/lab-specific knowledge that could be used to work in these areas. I guess Covid has changed this a bit but my guess is that pandemic preparedness, especially in the developing world, is still terribly neglected.

12Stubbrn2AI1yShould I think about getting an advanced degree in public health?
12Stubbrn2AI1yBelieve me! I am aleady thinking about the next pandemic and its possibility of originating from farms in the US! Dr. Michael Greger discusses that conclusion bases on his public health research in his book How to Survive a Pandemic. I’m not opposed to working in international settings, though. I have a Bachelor of Science in Biology I obtained in 2013. My work has been shipping/receiving and administrative in nature since then. Only in the past two years have I started doing some lab work to support researchers. I appreciate you taking time out of your day to reply to my post.
Careers Questions Open Thread

Yep - Lucius Caviola and Stefan Schubert, and also Joshua Greene at Harvard. Lucius and Stefan have a bunch of their videos on YouTube. Also have you considered applying to GPI?

Careers Questions Open Thread

I would say don't get an MBA unless you are really really sure, as they are mega-expensive and I think marketed very broadly to people who often don't benefit from them

Careers Questions Open Thread

Hey Jeremy! Myself and Joan Gass at CEA, and Markus Anderljung at FHI,  all use skills like the ones you mention above, from our consulting backgrounds, at non-profits. 

I sometimes look at this filter on the 80K job board and one example of a role you might like is this one. I also think that working in government is often a good thing to do, and so maybe there could be some US trade/aid organisations which you might find interesting, and also this talk. If you think that consulting means you can boost the productivity of companies and lead to ec... (read more)

2JeremyR1yThanks! I actually ran through the whole 80k job board a few weeks back, but I like your filters (and am seeing a few new roles already). I'll give the talk a listen (and the article a read); thanks for sharing!
Careers Questions Open Thread

It's great that you've been so persistent! It seems like you're fairly set on politics - what is it that motivates you to work on that, and are there any other routes to do something similar?

Careers Questions Open Thread

On a) I think it depends on how well suited you are to the role and on b) Have you tried applying for roles in emerging technologies or security? This could be a cheap test to see if you might like working there, and whether you'd actually need to do further study.

AMA: Jason Crawford, The Roots of Progress

R&D is a public good, and so we'd expect it to be systemically underfunded by the private sector and provided in some part at least by governments. Some economists, such as Mariana Mazzucato argue that government plays a key role in both funding R&D and in applying it for public benefit. Lant Pritchett argues that development comes through interlocking transformations, including the build-up of state capability.   

But in your comments below, and from having read through your blog, it seems like you're not such a fan of government or even ... (read more)

5jasoncrawford1yLet me say up front that there is a divergence here between my ideological biases/priors and what I think I can prove or demonstrate objectively. I usually try to stick to the latter because I think that's more useful to everyone, but since you asked I need to get into the former. Does government have a role to play? Well, taking that literally, then absolutely, yes. If nothing else, I think it's clear that government creates certain conditions of political stability, and provides legal infrastructure such as corporate and contract law, property law including IP, and the court system. All of those are necessary for progress. (And when I mentioned “root-cause analysis on most human suffering” above, I was mostly thinking about dysfunctional governments in the poorest countries that are totally corrupt and/or can't even maintain law & order) I also think government, especially the military, has at least a sort of incidental role to play as a customer of technology. The longitude problem was funded in part by the British navy. The technique of canning was invented when Napoleon offered a prize for a way to preserve food for his military on long foreign campaigns. The US military was one of the first customers of integrated circuits. Etc. And of course the military has reasons to do at least some R&D in-house, too. But I think what you're really asking about is whether civilian government should fund progress, or promote it through “policy”, or otherwise be actively involved in directing it. All I can say for sure here is: I don't know. So here's where we get into my priors, which are pretty much laissez-faire. That makes me generally unfavorable towards government subsidy or intervention. But again, this is what I don't think I have a real answer on yet. In fact, a big part of the motivation for starting The Roots of Progress was to challenge myself on these issues and to try to build up a stronger evidentiary base to draw conclusions. For now let me just sugges
Introducing High Impact Athletes

By the way EA Funds now includes the Founders Pledge climate fund which I think is a bit more straightforward than the animal welfare argument

If someone identifies as a longtermist, should they donate to Founders Pledge's top climate charities than to GiveWell's top charities?

In my view yes, for the reasons Ben Todd gives below. I also did some brief back of the envelope calculations using Danny's Bressler's mortality cost of carbon here. This is also something Will MacAskill has been talking about a lot more recently, and he talks about the long-term importance of climate change here. And also as Ben Todd and Max say below - I also agree that it's possible there's longtermist work, e.g. on GCBRs and maybe AI, that has a higher expected impact. But I think climate change is a fairly straightforward longtermist bet. We've recent... (read more)

Progress Open Thread: October // Student Summit 2020

I've been learning to code with Python and I did my first tiny bit of machine learning - I figured out how to do a polynomial regression to look at global average sea surface temperatures!

Is there a positive impact company ranking for job searches?

What jobs are you thinking about? You could always post some of your thoughts in a forum post and people might be keen offer suggestions.

Paris-compliant offsets - a high leverage climate intervention?

Oops meant to add that - it's now in the first paragraph!

1ShayBenMoshe1yGreat, thanks!
Factors other than ITN?

I personally don't find the ITN framework useful and agree with most of John Halstead's criticism of the framework here. Cost-effectiveness seems better if you want to make something numerical, within a particular cause area.

In fact, for me, I think both cost-effectiveness and ITN as intellectual frameworks fall down because they mask what I see as a fundamentally philosophical set of questions, if you're trying to do something like compare mental health with health interventions with animal welfare with more longtermist interventions.

If t... (read more)

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