ClaireZabel

ClaireZabel's Comments

Information security careers for GCR reduction

I’ve created a survey about barriers to entering information security careers for GCR reduction, with a focus on whether funding might be able to help make entering the space easier. If you’re considering this career path or know people that are, and especially if you foresee money being an obstacle, I’d appreciate you taking the survey/forwarding it to relevant people. 

The survey is here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScEwPFNCB5aFsv8ghIFFTbZS0X_JMnuquE3DItp8XjbkeE6HQ/viewform?usp=sf_link. Open Philanthropy and 80,000 Hours staff members will be able to see the results.  I expect it to take around 5-25 minutes to take the survey, depending on how many answers are skipped. 

I’ll leave the survey open until EOD March 2nd. 

Some personal thoughts on EA and systemic change

[meta] Carl, I think you should consider going through other long, highly upvoted comments you've written and making them top-level posts. I'd be happy to look over options with you if that'd be helpful.

What book(s) would you want a gifted teenager to come across?

Cool project. I went to maybe-similar type of school and I think if I had encountered certain books earlier, it would have had a really good effect on me. The book categories I think I would most have benefitted from when I was that age:

  • Books about how the world very broadly works. A lot of history felt very detail-oriented and archival, but did less to give me a broad sense of how things had changed over time, what kinds of changes are possible, and what drives them. Top rec in that category: Global Economic History: A Very Short Introduction. Other recs: The Better Angels of Our Nature, Sapiens, Moral Mazes (I've never actually read the whole thing, just quotes),
  • Books about rationality, especially how it can cause important things to go awry, how that has happened historically and might be happening now. Reading these was especially relief-inducing because I already had concerns along those lines that I didn't see people articulate, and finally reading them was a hugely comforting experience. Top recs: Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, Rationality: From AI to Zombies (probably these were the most positively transformative books I've read, but Eliezer books are polarizing and some might have parts that people think are inappropriate for minors, and I can't remember which), Thinking Fast and Slow. Other recs: Inadequate Equilibria,
  • Some other misc recs I'm not going to explain: Permutation City, Animal Liberation, Command and Control, Seeing like a State, Deep Work, Nonviolent Communication

EA is vetting-constrained

I would guess the bottleneck is elsewhere too, think the bottleneck is something like managerial capacity/trust/mentorship/vetting of grantmakers. I recently started thinking about this a bit, but am still in the very early stages.

EA is vetting-constrained

(Just saw this via Rob's post on Facebook) :)

Thanks for writing this up, I think you make some useful points here.

Based on my experience doing some EA grantmaking at Open Phil, my impression is that the bottleneck isn't in vetting precisely, though that's somewhat directionally correct. It's more like there's a distribution of projects, and we've picked some of the low-hanging fruit, and on the current margin, grantmaking in this space requires more effort per grant to feel comfortable with, either to vet (e.g. because the case is confusing, we don't know the people involved), to advise (e.g. the team is inexperienced), to refocus (e.g. we think they aren't focusing on interventions that would meet our goals, and so we need to work on sharing models until one of us is moved), or to find. 

Often I feel like it's an inchoate combination of something like "a person has a vague idea they need help sharpening, they need some advice about structuring the project, they need help finding a team, the case is hard to understand and think about". 

Importantly, I suspect it'd be bad for the world if we lowered our bar, though unfortunately I don't think I want to or easily can articulate why I think that now. 

Overall, I think generating more experienced grantmakers/mentors for new projects is a priority for the movement.

In defence of epistemic modesty

I'm not sure where I picked it up, though I'm pretty sure it was somewhere in the rationalist community.

E.g. from What epistemic hygiene norms should there be?:

Explicitly separate “individual impressions” (impressions based only on evidence you've verified yourself) from “beliefs” (which include evidence from others’ impressions)

In defence of epistemic modesty

Thank so much for the clear and eloquent post. I think a lot of the issues related to lack of expertise and expert bias are stronger than I think you do, and I think it's both rare and not inordinately difficult to adjust for common biases such that in certain cases a less-informed individual can often beat the expert consensus (because few enough of the experts are doing this, for now). But it was useful to read this detailed and compelling explanation of your view.

The following point seems essential, and I think underemphasized:

Modesty can lead to double-counting, or even groupthink. Suppose in the original example Beatrice does what I suggest and revise their credences to be 0.6, but Adam doesn’t. Now Charlie forms his own view (say 0.4 as well) and does the same procedure as Beatrice, so Charlie now holds a credence of 0.6 as well. The average should be lower: (0.8+0.4+0.4)/3, not (0.8+0.6+0.4)/3, but the results are distorted by using one-and-a-half helpings of Adam’s credence. With larger cases one can imagine people wrongly deferring to hold consensus around a view they should think is implausible, and in general the nigh-intractable challenge from trying to infer cases of double counting from the patterns of ‘all things considered’ evidence.

One can rectify this by distinguishing ‘credence by my lights’ versus ‘credence all things considered’. So one can say “Well, by my lights the credence of P is 0.8, but my actual credence is 0.6, once I account for the views of my epistemic peers etc.” Ironically, one’s personal ‘inside view’ of the evidence is usually the most helpful credence to publicly report (as it helps others modestly aggregate), whilst ones all things considered modest view usually for private consumption.

I rarely see any effort to distinguish between the two outside the rationalist/EA communities, which is one reason I think both over-modesty and overconfident backlash against it are common.

My experience is that most reasonable, intelligent people I know have never explicitly thought of the distinction between the two types of credence. I think many of them have an intuition that something would be lost if they stated their "all things considered" credence only, even though it feels "truer" and "more likely to be right," though they haven't formally articulated the problem. And knowing that other people rarely make this distinction, it's hard for everyone know how to update based on others' views without double-counting, as you note.

It seems like it's intuitive for people to state either their inside view, or their all-things-considered view, but not both. To me, stating "both">"inside view only">"outside view only", but I worry that calls for more modest views tend to leak nuance and end up pushing for people to publicly state "outside view only" rather than "both"

Also, I've generally heard people call the "credence by my lights" and "credence all things considered" one's "impressions" and "beliefs," respectively, which I prefer because they are less clunky. Just fyi.

(views my own, not my employer's)

Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA

Flaws aren't the only things I want to discover when I scrutinize a paper. I also want to discover truths, if they exist, among other things

Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA

[random] I find the survey numbers interesting, insofar as they suggest that EA is more left-leaning than almost any profession or discipline.

(see e.g. this and this).

Why & How to Make Progress on Diversity & Inclusion in EA

The incentive gradient I was referring to goes from trying to actually figure out the truth to using arguments as weapons to win against opponents. You can totally use proxies for the truth if you have to(like an article being written by someone you've audited in the past, or someone who's made sound predictions in the past). You can totally decide not to engage with an issue because it's not worth the time.

But if you just shrug your shoulders and cite average social science reporting on a forum you care about, you are not justified in expecting good outcomes. This is the intellectual equivalent of catching the flu and then purposefully vomiting into the town water supply. People that do this are acting in a harmful manner, and they should be asked to cease and desist.

the best scrutinizer is someone who feels motivated to disprove a paper's conclusion

The best scrutinizer is someone that feels motivated to actually find the truth. This should be obvious.

For whatever reason, on average they find it more intrinsically motivating to look for holes in social psych research if it supports a liberal conclusion.

Yet EAs are mostly liberal. The 2017 Survey had 309 EAs identifying as Left, 373 as Centre-Left, 4 identifying as Right, 31 as Centre Right. My contention is that this is not about the conclusions being liberal. It's about specific studies and analyses of studies being terrible. E.g. (and I hate that I have to say this) I lean very socially liberal on most issues. Yet I claim that the article Kelly cited is not good support for anyone's beliefs. Because it is terrible, and does not track the truth. And we don't need writings like that, regardless of whose conclusions they happen to support.

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