DanielFilan's Shortform

To be explicit, here are some reasons that the EA community should cancel Kaczynski. Note that I do not necessarily think that they are sound or decisive.
- EAs are known as utilitarians who are concerned about the impact of AI technology. By associating with him, that could give people the false impression that EAs are in favour of terroristic bombing campaigns to retard technological development, which would damage the EA community.
- His threat to bomb more people and buildings if the Washington Post (WaPo) didn't publish his manifesto damaged good discourse norms by inducing the WaPo to talk about something it wasn't otherwise inclined to talk about, and good discourse norms are important for effective altruism.
- It seems to me (not having read the manifesto) that the policies he advocates would cause large amounts of harm. For instance, without modern medical technology, I and many others would not have survived to the age of one year.
- His bombing campaign is evidence of very poor character.

DanielFilan's Shortform

Ted Kaczynski as a relatively apolitical test case for cancellation norms (x-posted from LW, I'd link but the shortform post editor won't really let me):

Ted Kaczynski was a mathematics professor who decided that industrial society was terrible, and waged a terroristic bombing campaign to foment a revolution against technology. As part of this campaign, he wrote a manifesto titled "Industrial Society and Its Future" and said that if a major newspaper printed it verbatim he would desist from terrorism. He is currently serving eight life sentences in a "super-max" security prison in Colorado.

My understanding is that his manifesto (which, incidentally, has been updated and given a new title "Anti-Tech Revolution: Why and How", the second edition of which was released this year) is lucid and thought-out. Here are some questions the answers to which are not obvious to me:
- Should anybody read "Industrial Society and Its Future", given its origin?
- Suppose an EA group wrote to Kaczynski in prison, asking him to write a letter about opposition to technology to be read aloud and discussed in an EA meetup, and he complied. Would it have been unacceptable for the EA group to do this, and should it be unacceptable for the EA group to hold this meetup?

Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident

In the 'Recent Discussion' feed of the front page of the EA forum, I found this page between Owen Cotton-Barratt's AMA and this question about insights in longtermist macrostrategy. The AMA had 9 usernames that appeared male to me, no usernames that appeared female to me, and 3 usernames whose gender I couldn't discern. The macrostrategy discussion had 12 names that appeared male to me, 1 that I gathered was female based on this comment, and 3 whose gender I couldn't discern. This should obviously be taken with a grain of salt, since determining gender from usernames is a tricky business.

Some thoughts on the EA Munich // Robin Hanson incident

FYI, I read this, didn't know the facts, and it didn't occur to me that the organisation Habryka was referring to was CEA - I think my guess was that it was maybe some other random student group?

Open and Welcome Thread: September 2020

For reference, the population of the Federation would be ~180 million, less than Nigeria but well over Egypt, Ethiopia, or the Democratic Republic of the Congo, while the largest constituent state, Tanzania, has a population of ~60 million.

Open and Welcome Thread: September 2020

Something that I haven't seen discussed in EA circles is the potential East African Federation. This is the idea of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan forming a unified country. These are the countries of the East African Community, which to my untrained eye seems to have already made some impactful steps to further economic integration. The Wikipedia page for the Federation says:

In September 2018, a committee was formed to begin the process of drafting a regional constitution, and a draft constitution for the confederation is set to be written by 2021, with implementation of the confederacy by 2023.

I don't know how likely this is to happen. That being said, if it did happen, it seems to me that this would potentially be a big deal regarding poverty alleviation and economic development in that part of the world. As such, I'd imagine it's worth some people's time to forecast whether or not it will happen, and think about ways to influence (a) whether or not it does happen, and (b) the outcome - for example, by providing expertise in constitutional construction. That being said, I don't follow the global poverty space in EA very much, so I could be missing detailed discussion, or background knowledge that this doesn't really matter.

On Priors

Sure. I think a better thing to do (which I think what Carl is suggesting) is to have a prior distribution over x (the effectiveness of a randomly chosen intervention), and interventionDistribution (a categorical distribution over different shapes you think the space of interventions might have). So P(x, 'Pareto') = P('Pareto') P(x | 'Pareto') = w_{Pareto} P_{Pareto}(x) and P(x, 'logNormal') = P('logNormal') P(x | 'logNormal') = w_{logNormal} P_{logNormal}(x). Then, for the first intervention you see, your prior density over effectiveness is indeed P(x) = w_{Pareto} P_{Pareto}(x) + w_{logNormal} P_{logNormal}(x), but after measuring a bunch of interventions, you can update your beliefs about the empirical distribution of effectivenesses.

On Priors

On your first point, instead of using a single prior distribution I could do a weighted combination of multiple distributions. There are two ways to do this: either have a prior be a combination distribution, or compute multiple posteriors with different distributions and take their weighted average. Not sure which one correctly handles this uncertainty.

Not sure what you mean by a 'combination distribution', but I think something like Carl's suggestion is correct: have a hierarchical model where the type of distribution over effectiveness that you will use is itself a random variable, which the distribution over effectiveness has as a 'hyperparameter'. You could also add a level to the hierarchy by having a distribution over the probabilities for each type of distribution. That being said, it might be convenient to fix these probabilities since it's difficult to put all the evidence you have access to in the model. Probabilistic programming languages are a convenient way to handle such hierarchical models, if you're interested, I recommend checking out this tutorial for an introduction focussing on applications in psychology.

The Valentine’s Day Gift That Saves Lives

You postulate that for people who aren't EAs, this seems spammy. I would love it if that was the case! It would mean they were regularly exposed to such messages.

I don't think that "spammy" just means "messages that the viewer often sees". I can't really put into words what I think it does mean, but if someone had a post like this about how the best Valentine's Day gift was to donate to a fund that provided good architecture in cities, I would consider that spammy (unless it was really well-written, interesting, and not written by an organisation dedicated to promoting good architecture).

It was just accepted for publication to The Plain Dealer, the 16th largest newspaper in the US. They would be highly unlikely to accept anything their audience would find as spammy.

This is evidence, but my intuition is that it isn't very strong. I know that some of the largest newspapers in Australia print things which I would think of as low-quality and bordering on spammy. I also find it plausible that the 16th largest newspaper in the US might occasionally have trouble getting content, and would have to accept unusually low quality content.

That being said, I also think it's probable that different people have different criteria for what strikes them as spammy, and that there's a significant proportion of people to whom this isn't spammy.

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