Benjamin_Todd

Comments

Cost-Effectiveness of Air Purifiers against Pollution

Thanks! I'd be keen to hear what reduction in levels you can measure in your home, with an without the filter over a couple of weeks. I worry that the studies will be overly optimistic.

I also worry that sleeping with the windows shut is a bad idea due to this: https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/pPZ27eZdBXtGuLqZC/what-is-up-with-carbon-dioxide-and-cognition-an-offer

The academic contribution to AI safety seems large

Hi there, thanks for the post - useful figures!

I agree with the central point, though I want to point out this issue applies to most of the problem areas we focus on. This means it would only cause you to down-rate AI safety relative to other issues if you think the 'spillover' from other work is greater for AI safety than for other issues.

This effect should be bigger for causes that appear very small, so it probably does cause AI safety to look less neglected relative to, say, climate change, but maybe not relative to global priorities research. And in general, these effects mean that super neglected causes are not as good as they first seem.

That said, it's useful to try to directly estimate the indirect resources for different issues in order to check this, so I'm glad to have these specific estimates.

There is some more discussion of this general issue in our problem framework article:

Often resources are unintentionally dedicated to solving a problem by groups that may be self-interested, or working on an adjacent problem. We refer to this as ‘indirect effort’, in contrast with the ‘direct effort’ of groups consciously focused on the problem. These indirect efforts can be substantial. For example, not much money is spent on research to prevent the causes of ageing directly, but many parts of biomedical research are contributing by answering related questions or developing better methods. While this work may not be well targeted on reducing ageing specifically, much more is spent on biomedical research in general than anti-ageing research specifically. Most of the progress on preventing ageing is probably due to these indirect efforts.

Indirect efforts are hard to measure, and even harder to adjust for how useful they are for solving the problem at hand.

For this reason we usually score only ‘direct effort’ on a problem. Won’t this be a problem, because we will be undercounting the total effort? No, because we will adjust for this in the next factor: Solvability. Problems where most of the effective effort is occurring indirectly will not be solved as quickly by a large increase in ‘direct effort’.

One could also use a directed-weighted measure of effort. So long as it was applied consistently in evaluating both Neglectedness and Solvability, it should lead to roughly the same answer.

Another challenge is how to take account of the fact that some problems might receive much more future effort than others. We don’t have a general way to solve this, except (i) it’s reason not to give extremely low neglectedness scores to any area (ii) one can try to consider the future direction of resources rather than only resources today.

[updated] Global development interventions are generally more effective than Climate change interventions

Just an extra thought for those following up on this analysis:

I was wondering if this analysis stacks the deck against global health.

The basic idea is that SCC estimates aim to include all the costs of CO2 – these are discounted, but many of the damages come ~100 years in the future.

On the other hand, the analyses of global health mainly try to quantify the immediate effects on health and income. They don't include the idea that greater health and income now can lead to compounding economic benefits in the future.

Another way of seeing this is that the SCC estimates include 'medium-term effects', whereas the the global health ones might not.

Or another way of seeing it is that once we're willing to include long-term benefits in the equation, we're actually in the longtermist regime, and should focus mainly on existential risks.

In future attempts to compare climate change to global health, I think it would be useful to distinguish different worldviews used to make the assessment, which might be something like:

  • Near termist
  • Long termist
  • Conventional economic CBA
MathiasKirkBonde's Shortform

Some thoughts here on how quick it is to learn: https://80000hours.org/articles/china-careers/#learn-chinese-in-china

In there, I guess that 6-18 months of full-time study in the country is enough to get to conversational fluency.

I've seen other estimates that it takes a couple of thousand hours to get fluent e.g. here: https://linguapath.com/how-many-hours-learn-language/

My guess is that it's more efficient to study full time while living in the country. I think living there increases motivation, means you learn what you actually need, means you learn a bunch 'passively', and lets you practice conversation a lot, which is better than most book learning, and you learn more of the culture. So, I'd guess someone would make more progress living there for a year compared to doing an hour a day for ~4 years, and enjoy it more.

That said, if you use the hour well, you could learn a lot of vocab and grammar. You could could then get a private tutor to practice conversation, or you could go to China (or Taiwan) later building on that base.

What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts

Yes, I agree with that too - see my comments later in the thread. I think it would be great to be clearer that the arguments for xrisk and longtermism are separate (and neither depends on utilitarianism).

What are the leading critiques of "longtermism" and related concepts

FWIW I'd still favour two posts (or if you were only going to one, focusing on longtermism). I took a quick look at the original list, and I think they divide up pretty well, so you wouldn't end up with many reasons that should appear on both lists. I also think it would be fine to have some arguments appear on both lists.

In general, I think conflating the case for existential risk with the case for longtermism has caused a lot of confusion, and it's really worth pushing against.

For instance, many arguments that undermine existential risk actually imply we should focus on (i) investing & capacity building (ii) global priorities research or (iii) other ways to improve the future, but instead get understood as arguments for working on global health.

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