Excellent! A well-deserved second prize in the Creative Writing Contest.
In my experience, many EAs have a fairly nuanced perspective on technological progress and aren't unambiguous techno-optimists.
For instance, a substantial fraction of the community is very concerned about the potential negative impacts of advanced technologies (AI, biotech, solar geoengineering, cyber, etc.) and actively works to reduce the associated risks.
Moreover, some people in the community have promoted the idea of "differential (technological) progress" to suggest that we should work to (i) accelerate risk-reducing, welfare-enhancing tec... (read more)
Utilitarianism.net has also recently published an article on Arguments for Utilitarianism, written by Richard Yetter Chappell. (I'm sharing this article since it may interest readers of this post)
Thanks, it's valuable to hear your more skeptical view on this point! I've included it after several reviewers of my post brought it up and still think it was probably worth including as one of several potential self-interested benefits of Wikipedia editing.
I was mainly trying to draw attention to the fact that it is possible to link a Wikipedia user account to a real person and that it is worth considering whether to include it in certain applications (something I've done in previous applications). I still think Wikipedia editing is a decent signal ... (read more)
Thanks for this comment, Michael! I agree with all the points you make and should have been more careful to compare Wikipedia editing against the alternatives (I began doing this in an earlier draft of this post and then cut it because it became unwieldy).
In my experience, few EAs I've talked to have ever seriously considered Wikipedia editing. Therefore, my main objective with this post was to get more people to recognize it as one option of something valuable they might do with a part of their time; I wasn't trying to argue that Wikipedia editing i... (read more)
I strongly agree that we should learn our lessons from this incident and seriously try to avoid any repetition of something similar. In my view, the key lessons are something like:
I think it wou... (read more)
As an example, look at this overview of the Wikipedia pages that Brian Tomasik has created and their associated pageview numbers (screenshot of the top 10 pages below). The pages created by Brian mostly cover very important (though fringe) topics and attract ~ 100,000 pageviews every year. (Note that this overview ignores all the pages that Brian has edited but didn't create himself.)
Someone (who is not me) just started a proposal for a WikiProject on Effective Altruism! To be accepted, this proposal will need to be supported by at least 6-12 active Wikipedia editors. If you're interested in contributing to such a WikiProject, please express "support" for the proposal on the proposal page.
The proposal passed!! Everyone who's interested should add themselves as a participant on the official wikiproject! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:WikiProject_Effective_Altruism
This is the best tool I know of to get an overview of Wikipedia article pageview counts (as mentioned in the post); the only limitation with it is that pageview data "only" goes back to 2015.
Create a page on biological weapons. This could include, for instance,
(This does sound useful, though I'd note this is also a relatively sensitive area and OWID are - thankfully! - a quite prominent site, so OWID may wish to check in with global catastrophic biorisk researchers regarding whether anything they'd intend to include on such a page might be best left out.)
Thank you! Just FYI, on (6) we have:
For many people interested in but not yet fully committed to biosecurity, it may make more sense to choose a more general master's program in international affairs/security and then concentrate on biosecurity/biodefense to the extent possible within their program.
Some of the best master's programs to consider to this end:
The GMU Biodefense Master's is also offered as an online-only degree.
Georgetown University offers a 2-semester MSc in "Biohazardous Threat Agents & Emerging Infectious Diseases". Course description from the website: "a one year program designed to provide students with a solid foundation in the concepts of biological risk, disease threat, and mitigation strategies. The curriculum covers classic biological threats agents, global health security, emerging diseases, technologies, CBRN risk mitigation, and CBRN security."
Website traffic was initially low (i.e. 21k pageviews by 9k unique visitors from March to December 2020) but has since been gaining steam (i.e. 40k pageviews by 20k unique visitors in 2021 to date) as the website's search performance has improved. We expect traffic to continue growing significantly as we add more content, gather more backlinks and rise up the search rank. For comparison, the Wikipedia article on utilitarianism has received ~ 480k pageviews in 2021 to date, which suggests substantial room for growth for utilitarianism.net.
I'm not sure what counts as 'astronomically' more cost effective, but if it means ~1000x more important/cost-effective I might agree with (ii).
This may be the crux - I would not count a ~ 1000x multiplier as anywhere near "astronomical" and should probably have made this clearer in my original comment.
Claim (i), that the value of the long-term (in terms of lives, experiences, etc.) is astronomically larger than the value of the near-term, refers to differences in value of something like 1030 x.
All my comment was meant to say is that it seems hi... (read more)
I'd like to point to the essay Multiplicative Factors in Games and Cause Prioritization as a relevant resource for the question of how we should apportion the community's resources across (longtermist and neartermist) causes:
TL;DR: If the impacts of two causes add together, it might make sense to heavily prioritize the one with the higher expected value per dollar. If they multiply, on the other hand, it makes sense to more evenly distribute effort across the causes. I think that many causes in the effective altruism sphere interact more multip
Please see my above response to jackmalde's comment. While I understand and respect your argument, I don't think we are justified in placing high confidence in this model of the long-term flowthrough effects of near-term targeted interventions. There are many similar more-or-less plausible models of such long-term flowthrough effects, some of which would suggest a positive net effect of near-term targeted interventions on the long-term future, while others would suggest a negative net effect. Lacking strong evidence that would allow us to accurately ... (read more)
Yep, not placing extreme weight. Just medium levels of confidence that when summed over, add up to something pretty low or maybe mildly negative. I definitely am not like 90%+ confidence on the flowthrough effects being negative.
No, we probably don’t. All of our actions plausibly affect the long-term future in some way, and it is difficult to (be justified to) achieve very high levels of confidence about the expected long-term impacts of specific actions. We would require an exceptional degree of confidence to claim that the long-term effects of our specific longtermist intervention are astronomically (i.e. by many orders of magnitude) larger than the long-term effects of some random neartermist interventions (or even doing nothing at all). Of course, this claim is perfectly... (read more)
Agreed, I'd love this feature! I also frequently rely on pageview statistics to prioritize which Wikipedia articles to improve.
There is a big difference between (i) the very plausible claim that the value of the long-term (in terms of lives, experiences, etc.) is astronomically larger than the value of the near-term, and (ii) the rather implausible claim that interventions targeted at improving the long-term are astronomically more important/cost-effective than those targeted at improving the near-term. It seems to me that many longtermists believe (i) but that almost no-one believes (ii).
Basically, in this context the same points apply that Brian Tomasik made in his essay "Why Ch... (read more)
I tentatively believe (ii), depending on some definitions. I'm somewhat surprised to see Ben and Darius implying it's a really weird view, and makes me wonder what I'm missing.
I don't want the EA community to stop working on all non-longtermist things. But the reason is because I think many of those things have positive indirect effects on the EA community. (I just mean indirect effects on the EA community, and maybe on the broader philanthropic community, I don't mean indirect effects more broadly in the sense of 'better health in poor countries' --> '... (read more)
It seems to me that many longtermists believe (i) but that almost no-one believes (ii).
Really? This surprises me. Combine (i) with the belief that we can tractably influence the far future and don't we pretty much get to (ii)?
I really appreciated the many useful links you included in this post and would like to encourage others to strive to do the same when writing EA Forum articles.
Thanks Darius! It was my pleasure.
Happy to have you here, Linda! It sounds like you have some really important skills to offer and I wish you will find great opportunities to apply them.
The listed application documents include a "Short essay (≤500 words)" without further details. Can you say more about what this entails and what you are looking for?
Are non-US citizens who hold a US work authorization disadvantaged in the application process even if they seek to enter a US policy career (and perhaps aim to become naturalized eventually)?
There is Eliezer Yudkowsky's Harry Potter fan fiction "Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality" (HPMOR), which conveys many ideas and concepts that are relevant to EA: http://www.hpmor.com/
Please note that there is also a fan-produced audio version of HPMOR: https://hpmorpodcast.com/
Great initiative! Unfortunately, I cannot seem to find the podcast on either of my two podcast apps (BeyondPod and Podcast Addict). Do you plan to make the podcast available across all major platforms?
Strongly agree! I'm currently writing an EA Forum post making the case for Wikipedia editing.
Awesome episode! I really enjoyed listening to it when it came out and was excited for Sam's large audiences across Waking Up and Making Sense to learn about EA in this way.
Welcome Naghma! It is great to have you here and learn about your background and interests.
Hi Alene! I suspect you already know Jay Shooster (https://www.richmanlawpolicy.com/team/jay-shooster)? In case you don't, he might be a great contact for you.
YESSSSS he's amazing and has volunteered to help me think through some things! Jay Shooster, if you're reading this: You rock.
Here is an old, informal 80,000 Hours document on this topic: https://wiki.80000hours.org/index.php/Potentially_promising_career_paths_in_poorer_countries
Regarding your question:
What would moral/social progress actually look like?
This is a big and difficult question, but here are some pointers to relevant concepts and resources:
Does XR consider tech progress default-good or default-bad?
Leopold Aschenbrenner's paper Existential risk and growth provides one interesting perspective on this question (note that while I find the paper informative, I don't think it settles the question).
A key question the paper seeks to address is this:
Does faster economic growth accelerate the development of dangerous newtechnologies, thereby increasing the probability of an existential catastrophe?
The paper's (preliminary) conclusion is
we could be living in a unique “time
My impression is that as an organisation CEA has undergone substantial change over time. How might working at CEA today be different compared to working there, say, 3/5/7 years ago?
Do you believe the EA community's overall level of investment in community building is adequate/too low/too high?
(While this question isn't strictly about CEA itself, I'd imagine a key motivating belief for many CEA staff members would be that community building work is neglected relative to other high impact opportunities.)
What are the most positive and/or negative aspects of your work at CEA?
Positive: The people I work with, both at CEA as well as the wider EA community, are often impressive, talented, and kind.
Negative: I'm not a morning person, and living in Pacific time while working with Brits means I have to be up early a lot
I love my job, and feel very lucky.
For me it might be two sides of the same coin (particular to my role on the community health team).
The positive is getting to serve a community I really believe in, and supporting people who feel very much on the same team as me as far as big life goals.
The negative is that there's less separation between work life and community life than there would be in a lot of jobs. I'm not a normal community member in the way I was before I worked here - there are more things I have to try to be neutral on, etc. Facebook is mostly a work space for me.
This is an interesting question, though I am somewhat concerned that the responses will be biased towards high numbers because people who work relatively fewer hours may be less likely to respond. I would give much more weight to an anonymous survey.
On a different note, I have personally found it useful to track my working hours using Toggl Track (https://toggl.com/track/). This has given me a much more accurate sense of how many hours I usually work per week and how long I should expect projects to take.
FWIW, I also think it's plausible responses will be biased towards low numbers because people want to be avoid looking like they're bragging, don't want to contribute to people's stress, etc.
(But to be clear, I'm not saying I expect those different sources of bias to cancel out - it seems hard to say what the net bias would be - and so also endorse the idea of giving more weight to an anonymous survey.)
Suggestion to change this tag's URL from "/moral-circle-expansion-1/" to "/moral-circle-expansion/".
Here are several more recent resources addressing the differences between effective altruism and utilitarianism/consequentialism:
To learn more about the difference between criteria of rightness and decision procedures, and how this difference entails a distinction between "single-level utilitarianism" and "multi-level utilitarianism", please see the section Chapter 3: Elements and Types of Utilitarianism: Multi-level Utilitarianism Versus Single-level Utilitarianism on utilitarianism.net.
Another way to approach this is to ensure that people who are already interested in learning about utilitarianism are able to find high-quality resources that explicitly cover topics like the idea of the expanding moral circle, sentiocentrism/pathocentrism, and the implications for considering the welfare of geographically distant people, other species, and future generations.
Improving educational opportunities of this kind was one motivation for writing this section on utilitarianism.net: Chapter 3: Utilitarianism and Practical Ethics: The... (read more)
Another indicator: Wikipedia pageviews show fairly stable interest in articles on EA and related topics over the last five years.
Hi Pablo, I have only just seen your comments. Yes, of course, I am more than happy with all the changes you have made and trust your sense for how this Wiki should be designed/structured! Thank you and keep up the good work.
Wikipedia pageviews could serve as a useful indicator that I expect is strongly correlated with website views.
E.g. see the following comparison of the pageviews of several EA-related Wikipedia pages in 2020. As it turns out, Peter Singer gets about 2x the number of views of Nick Bostrom, 2.5x of effective altruism, and 12x FHI or GiveWell.
A somewhat related thought I had while reading this post: Several of the nuclear-weapon states (including the US for all I remember) retain the right to retaliate with nuclear weapons against an attack with bioweapons, chemical weapons, and even cyber weapons. On the one hand, this might make the overall situation more stable because hostile actors (at least states, probably not so much terrorist groups) are deterred from using these other weapons types. On the other hand, it may be destabilising since many more actors (including non-state ones) may trigger a nuclear conflict.
On the topic of nuclear warfare, I have also read and can recommend The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War by Fred Kaplan. The book provides a deep dive into the development of the US nuclear doctrine over time , covering all administrations across 70 years and outlining in great detail many issues and arguments around nuclear policy.If you're also interested in books on biological weapons, I particularly recommend (HT Chris Bakerlee):
1. Bioterror and Biowarfare: A Beginner's Guide by Malcolm Dando
2. Deadliest Enem... (read more)
What are your thoughts on the desirability and feasibility of differential technological development (DTD) as a governance strategy for emerging technologies?
For instance, Toby Ord briefly touches on DTD in The Precipice, writing that "While it may be too difficult to prevent the development of a risky technology, we may be able to reduce existential risk by speeding up the development of protective technologies relative to dangerous ones."
What are your long-term goals for The Roots of Progress? Are you pleased with how far you have come so far (e.g. quantity and quality of content produced, page-view or subscriber numbers)?
How do you prioritise between the various projects you are working on? What other projects, if any, do you consider working on to advance progress studies in future?