All of DavidBernard's Comments + Replies

Managing COVID restrictions for EA Global travel: My plans + request for other examples

Within 3 days of departing the UK to return to the US, take another COVID test. This is required by the US CDC according to this link, and both PCR and Rapid Antigen tests are acceptable. I am planning to walk into an NHS location near the EA conference venue (like this) and get a free test. You don’t have to be a UK citizen to get free tests from the NHS (link).

My understanding is that you should not be using the free NHS test for travel and should instead book a private test, which is possible across London and at airports on the day of your flight. ... (read more)

Intervention report: Agricultural land redistribution

Hi Edo!

Our funder was interested in How Asia Works, presumably from positive reviews it's received from people like Bill Gates and Noah Smith, and asked us to check the land section in more detail. We had a comparative advantage here given my background in development economics.

I wouldn't be particularly interested in more land redistribution research, given that there don't seem to be any clear funding opportunities in this space. If someone could find decent opportunities then that would make it a bit more interesting. But given the ambiguous results on... (read more)

What is life like at the median global income?

If a whole book is too much, you could also try their article, Economic Lives of the Poor - - but this is explicitly focused on people living below the extreme poverty line, who are an order of magnitude poorer than the global median.

EA needs consultancies

For example, David and Jason's report on charter cities was completed in 100 hours, a reasonable fraction of which was extra legwork for external writeup/following up with affected parties, after the original report was delivered to Open Phil. My impression is that the bulk of the work was done on a fairly short calendar time cycle too, in ways that may be hard for external parties to replicate. But naively the report would still be useful to Open Phil and cost-effective to fund if it took 200 hours to complete and 3x the calendar time.

Just to clarify,... (read more)

4Linch5moThanks for the clarification!
US bill limiting patient philanthropy?

I know you were explicit about these being your views and not Founders Pledge's, but is there anyone better placed to think through those implications than Founders Pledge? And similarly, it seems like Founders Pledge would be one of the most natural organisations to advocate against limits on patient philanthropy, given the work on the long-term investment fund.

Intervention Report: Charter Cities

I'm not convinced that our CEA is particularly useful for more generalised interventions. All we really do is assume that the intervention causes some growth increase (a distribution rather than a point estimate) and then model expected income with the intervention, with the intervention 10 years later and with no intervention. The amount the intervention increases growth is the key parameter and is very uncertain so further research on this will have the highest VoI, but this will be different for each intervention. We treat how the intervention increase... (read more)

Intervention Report: Charter Cities

Thanks Mark, both for your time and feedback while we were writing the report and your comments now.

On 1, I agree that charter cities sit somewhere between neartermist and longtermist so thinking about them as mid/mediumtermist makes sense. I imagine Rethink Priorities’ future work in this space will be a mixture of traditionally neartermist and mediumtermist topics. However, most of the current arguments for charter cities, especially Mason (2019), have an explicitly neartermist flavour, given the direct comparisons to GiveWell charities and a focus on th... (read more)

Global lead exposure report

Thanks Jeremy!

That was just a typo. Previously we were unsure whether they would be an ally or an opponent and then Pure Earth told us they considered them to be an ally. I wasn't careful enough when editing that section so I've deleted "or an opponent" now.

8Josh Jacobson6moI largely like this video, but I also think it’s good to be aware of some shortcomings of this: [] (can’t get permalink to work from mobile, but intended here to link to my comment on that post).
Moral weight

The tag seems focused on how much weight should be assigned to different moral patients. But some people and posts use the phrase moral weight to refer to relative importance of different outcomes, e.g. how much should we care about consumption vs saving a life? Examples include:

Should we include both under this wiki-tag and broaden the definition? Or should we make a new... (read more)

2Pablo8moThanks for tagging all these posts! We already have a moral patienthood []entry, though unfortunately it was "wiki-only", so you couldn't use it as a tag. I have now removed this restriction and re-tagged all the articles. For the two articles above, I used the moral uncertainty [] tag instead, which seems more appropriate. Feel free to review my changes, and if you are satisfied with them, I would suggest deleting this tag.
RCTs in Development Economics, Their Critics and Their Evolution (Ogden, 2020) [linkpost]

This paper was a chapter in the book Randomized Control Trials in the Field of Development: A Critical Perspective, a collection of articles  on RCTs. Assuming the author of this chapter, Timothy Ogden doesn't identify as a randomista, the only other author who maybe does is Jonathan Morduch, so it's a pretty one-sided book (which isn't necessarily a problem, just something to be aware of).

There was a launch event for the book with talks from Sir Angus Deaton, Agnès Labrousse, Jonathan Morduch, Lant Pritchett and moderated by William Easterly, which y... (read more)

8smclare8moOgden works with Innovations for Poverty Action [] (and, incidentally, is on GiveWell's board []). I'm not sure he'd identify as a randomista but seems very likely he's favourable to RCTs.
Yale EA’s Fellowship Application Scores were not Predictive of Eventual Engagement

Thanks for the post, but I don't think you can conclude from your analysis that your criteria weren't helpful and the result is not necessarily that surprising. 

If you look at professional NBA basketball players, there's not much of a correlation between how tall a basketball player is and how much they get paid or some other measure of how good they are. Does this mean NBA teams are making a mistake by choosing tall basketball players? Of course not!

The mistake your analysis is making is called 'selecting on the dependent variable' or 'collider bias'... (read more)

Broadly, I agree with your points. You're right that we don't care about the relationship in the subpopulation, but rather about the relationship in the broader population. However, there are a couple of things I think are important to note here:

  1. As mentioned in my response on range restrictions, in some cases we did not reject many people at all. In those cases, our subpopulation was almost the entire population. This is not the case for the NBA or GRE examples.
  2. Lastly, possibly more importantly: we only know of maybe 3 cases of people being rejected from t
... (read more)
4David_Moss10moThe other big issue with this approach is that this would likely be confounded by the treatment effect of being selected for and undertaking the fellowship. i.e. we would hope that going through the fellowship actually makes people more engaged, which would lead to the people with higher scores (who get accepted to the fellowship) also having higher engagement scores. But perhaps what you had in mind was combining the simple approach with a more complex approach, like randomly selecting people for the fellowship across the range of predictor scores and evaluating the effects of the fellowship as well as the effect of the initial scores?
What is the likelihood that civilizational collapse would directly lead to human extinction (within decades)?

Thanks for this Luisa, I found it very interesting and appreciated the level of detail in the different cases. One thought and related questions that came up when reading the toy calculations at the end of each case:

For a fixed number of survivors, there is a trade-off between groups of different sizes. The larger the groups, the more likely each group is to survive, but the fewer groups need to be wiped out in order for humanity to go extinct. 

  • What might this trade-off look like and is there some optimal group size to minimise the risk of extinction?
... (read more)
Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

I’m happy to see an increase in the number of temporary visiting researcher positions at various EA orgs. I found my time visiting GPI during their Early  Career Conference Programme very valuable (hint: applications for 2021 are now open, apply!) and would encourage other orgs to run similar sorts of programmes to this and FHI’s (summer) research scholars programme. I'm very excited to see how our internship program develops as I really enjoy mentoring.

I think I was competitive for the RP job because of my T-shaped skills, broad knowledge in lots of ... (read more)

5MichaelA1yI already strongly agreed with your first paragraph in a separate answer, so I'll just jump in here to strongly agree with the second one too! I can confirm that I've been gobbling up EA content rather obsessively for the last 2 years. If anyone's interested in what this involved and how many hours I spent on it, I describe that here [] .
Ask Rethink Priorities Anything (AMA)

1. Thinking vs. reading. 

Another benefit of thinking before reading is that it can help you develop your research skills. Noticing some phenomena and then developing a model to explain it is a super valuable exercise. If it turns out you reproduce something that someone else has already done and published, then great, you’ve gotten experience solving some problem and you’ve shown that you can think through it at least as well as some expert in the field. If it turns out that you have produced something novel then it’s time to see how it compares to ex... (read more)

2EdoArad1yIt was interesting to read, thanks for the answers :) A small remark, which may be of use as you said you used Anki and now using Roam - The Roam Toolkit [] add-on allows you to use spaced-repetition in Roam.
3Denis Drescher1yThank you! Using the thinking vs. reading balance as a feedback mechanism is an interesting take, and in my experience it’s also most fruitful in philosophy, though I can’t compare with those branches of economics. Survival mindset: I suppose it serves its purpose when you’re in a very low-trust environment, but it’s probably not necessary most of the time for most aspiring EA researchers. Thanks for linking that list of textbooks! It’s also been helpful for me in the past. :-D Planning the next day the evening before also seems like a good thing to try for me. Thanks! I wonder whether you all have such fairly high typing speeds simply because you all type a lot or whether 80+ WPM is a speed threshold that is necessary to achieve before one ceases to perceive typing speed as a limiting factor. (Mine is around 60 WPM.) I hope you can get your work hours down to a manageable level!
An introduction to global priorities research for economists

Thanks for the paper suggestions! Most of my own research is on internal validity in the LaLonde style so I definitely think it is important too. I'll add a section on replicability to the syllabus.

The Moral Imperative Towards Cost-effectiveness

The first 5 paragraphs are repeated twice. Could someone fix this?

Tell us about your recent EA activities

Hey Kaj, I just thought I'd let you know that you're not alone in Scandinavia! A few of us are starting an EA group in Uppsala, Sweden and Trondheim, Norway launched a couple of weeks ago. I know it's late notice, but we're having a Google Hangout this evening, 9pm your time so if you could join, that'd be great!

1Kaj_Sotala7yFantastic! (Replied more privately.)