Bob Jacobs

I'm a student of moral sciences at the university of Ghent. I've also started an EA group in Ghent.


Reducing Wild Animal Suffering Literature Library
Moral Economics
Tiny Probabilities of Vast Utilities
Probability and Severity of Nuclear War
Quantitative Models for Cause Selection
Moral Weight Series
Consequentialist Cluelessness
The Meta Trap
Policy and International Relations Primer
Load More (9/11)


Where to find EA-related videos

I wanted to highlight three videos about existential risk by three youtube channels that make excellent content about science. 

The first video comes from the Domain of Science youtube channel. It maps out different apocalypses and subsequently ranks them. First, he presents his "Map of Doom", then he uses "number of casualties" and "likelihood of event" to plot all the global disasters on a scatter plot.

You can see the video here: 

He also turned this into a poster.
You can find the poster here:

The second youtube channel is Veritasium. He made a companion video that delves deeper into the risk of asteroids:

Lastly, the channel Scishow Space made a video on the timeline of existential risk:

 (They also have complementary channels about psychology and science in general)

Because these videos are so accessible they are an excellent way to inform newcomers about existential risk and generate more interest.

[Meta: This comment used to be a linkpost but I decided to make it a comment when I discovered that you can paste videos into a comment section now, thanks mods!]

Making More Sequences

Thank you! The cropping in photoshop only takes five minutes at most, so it isn't a big deal. All of the images are made with creative commons images, except for "moral anti-realism" (which I took from Lukas' own page, so I assume he has the rights) and "rwas library" which I found on a bunch of websites with no indication of it's status (if it does get copyrightstriked I'll photoshop a similar looking image).

Btw, could you add an "EA Forum (meta)" tag to this post? I can't add tags at the moment.

Making More Sequences

I love that sequence, but it's specifically about motivation and how to cultivate it. An "Introduction to EA" sequences would ideally focus on introducing some of the key concepts and organizations. Something like Doing Good Better, but with a little more focus on the movement.

Timeline Utilitarianism

No problem! As a non-native english speaker this was an extremely difficult post to write, hence why I leaned so heavily on images.  If you (or anyone) have any suggestions for how I could reword this post to make it clearer, please let me know.

EDIT: I've changed the word "standard utilitarianism" into "moment utilitarianism", I hope this clears up some of the confusion.

Timeline Utilitarianism

I think so too, because you can't really talk about ethics without a timeframe. I wasn't trying to argue that people don't use timeframes, but rather that people automatically use total timeline utilitarianism without realizing that other options are even possible. This was what I was trying to get at by saying:

Usually when people talk about different types of utilitarianism they automatically presuppose "total timeline utilitarianism". In fact, the current debate between total and average utilitarianism is actually a debate between "total total utilitarianism" and "total average utilitarianism".

Timeline Utilitarianism

Please, let me know about any source discussing this.

If with "this" you mean timeline utilitarianism,  then there isn't one unfortunately (I haven't published this idea anywhere else yet). Once I've finished university I hope some EA institution will hire me to do research into descriptive population ethics. So hopefully I can provide you with some data on our intuitions about timelines in a couple years.

I suspect that people more concerned with the quality of life will tend to favor average timeline utilitarianism, and all the people in this community that are so focused on x-risk and life-extension might be a minority with their stronger preference for the quantity of life (anti-deathism is the natural consequence of being a strong total timeline utilitarian).
If you want to read something similar to this then you could always check out the wider literature surrounding population ethics in general.

Timeline Utilitarianism

Yes, (total) total utilitarianism is both across time and space, but you can aggregate across time and space in many different ways. E.g median total utilitarianism is also both across time and space, but it aggregates very differently.

Suggestions for Online EA Discussion Norms

I made two visual guides that could be used to improve online discussions. These could be dropped into any conversation to (hopefully) make the discussion more productive.

The first is an update on Grahams hierarchy of disagreement

I improved the lay-out of the old image and added a top layer for steelmanning. You can find my reasoning here and a link to the pdf-file of the image here.

The second is a hierarchy of evidence:

I added a bottom layer for personal opinion. You can find the full image and pdf-file here.

Lastly I wanted to share the Toulmin method of argumentation, which is an excellent guide for a general pragmatic approach to arguments

[Meta-note for the mods. Can you please make it easier to put images into the comments, because this took a lot of tries]

A Toy Model of Hingeyness

The reason I find the definition not very useful is because it can be interpreted in so many different ways. The aim of this post was to show the four main ways you could interpreted it. When I read the definition my first interpretation was “hinge broadness”, while I suspect your interpretation was “hinge reduction”. I’m not saying that hinge broadness is the ‘correct’ definition of hingeyness, because there is no ‘correct’ definition of hingeyness until a community of language users has made it a convention. There is no convention yet so I’m purposefully splitting the concept into more quantifiable chunks in the hope that we can avoid the confusion that comes from multiple people using the same terms for different concepts.
Since I failed to convey this I will slightly edit this post to clear it up for the next confused reader. I added one sentence, and tweaked another sentence and a subtitle. The old version of the post can be found on LessWrong.

A Toy Model of Hingeyness

That's a very useful link, thank you.

Also mod-team, this comment isn't visible underneath my post in any of my browsers. Is there any way to fix that?

EDIT: Thank you mod-team!

Load More