Davidmanheim's Comments

Challenges in Scaling EA Organizations

I'd strongly agree with Drucker, both here and generally. The issue I have is that EA culture already has strong values and norms, ones that don't necessarily need to be shaped in the same ways because they are already strong in many ways - though careful thought is certainly important. And a very important but unusual concern is that without care, the founder effects, culture, norms and values can easily erode when organizations, or the ecosystem as a whole, grows.

Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

SARS was very unusual, and serves as a partial counterexample. On the other hand, the "trend" being shown is actually almost entirely a function of the age groups of the people infected - it was far more fatal in the elderly. With that known now, we have a very reasonable understanding of what occurred - which is that because the elderly were infected more often in countries where SARS reached later, and the countries are being aggregated in this graph, the raw estimate behaved very strangely.

Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

And for preventing transmission, I know it seems obvious, but you need to actually wash your hands. Also, it seems weird, by studies indicate that brushing teeth seems to help reduce infection rates.

And covering your mouth with a breathing mask may be helpful, as long as you're not, say, touching food with your hands that haven't been washed recently and then eating. Also, even if there is no Coronavirus, in general, wash your hands before eating. Very few people are good about doing this, but it will help.

Concerning the Recent 2019-Novel Coronavirus Outbreak

This is the boring take, but it's worth noting that conditional on this spreading widely, perhaps the most important things to do are mitigating health impacts on you, not preventing transmission. And that means staying healthy in general, perhaps especially regarding cardiovascular health - a good investment regardless of the disease, but worth re-highlighting.

I'm not a doctor, but I do work in public health. Based on my understanding of the issues involved, if you want to take actions now to minimize severity later if infected, my recommendations are:

  • Exercise (which will help with cardiovascular health)
  • Lose excess weight (which can exacerbate breathing issues)
  • Get enough sleep (which assists your immune system generally)
  • Eat healthy (again, general immune system benefits)
Davidmanheim's Shortform

Update: The total raised by Israeli EAs from the survey is on the order of 100,000 NIS, or about $30,000 now, which I think could plausibly double or even triple once started, at least in the next couple years. Given that tax rebates in Israel are a flat 35%, the planned organization would save Israeli EAs 35,000 NIS / $10,000 annually now, and 2-3 times as much in the coming few years. If there are very low administrative costs, this is plausibly enough that it is worth having on a utilitarian calculus basis, as outlined in my above pre-commitment, IF there were someone suitable to run it that had enough time and / or was willing to work cheaply enough.

However, given the value of my time working on other things, however, it is not enough for me to think that I should run the organization.

To get this started, I do have ideas I'm happy to share about what needs to be done, and the growth potential makes a strong case for this to be investigated further. AT the same time, I think it's worse for someone ineffective / not aligned to start this than to simply wait until the need is larger, so I am deferring on this.

International Relations; States, Rational Actors, and Other Approaches (Policy and International Relations Primer Part 4)

It's true that assuming single peaked preferences is usually really central to rational actor approaches, but there are a few different issues that exist which should be separated. Arrows theorem is in many cases, no voting system is Pareto-compatible, non-dictatorial, and allows independence of irrelevant alternatives.

First, as you noted, these classes of preference don't imply that there are coherent ranked preferences in a group (unless we also have only a single continuous preference dimension). If I prefer rice to beans to corn for dinner and you prefer beans to corn to rice, while our friend prefers corn to rice to beans, it's not a continuous system, and there's no way that voting will help - any alternative has 2/3rds of voters opposed. (Think this isn't a ever relevant issue? Remember Brexit?)

Second, even if the domain is continuous, if there is more than one dimension, it still can fail. For example, we need to order lunch and dinner together, I want 75% beans, and 25% rice for dinner, and 50% of each for lunch, and it's a monotonic and continuous preference - i.e. the farther away from my preferred split we get, the less I like it. If I take a bunch of similar types of preferences about these meals and need to make a single large order, arrow's theorem shows that there may be no voting system that allows people to agree on any particular combination for the two meals - there can be a majority opposed to any one order.

And third, it's sometimes simply incorrect as a description of people preferences. As an example, a voter might reasonably have preferences for either high taxes and strong regulation with a strong social safety net so that people can depend on the government, OR low taxes, little regulation, and no safety net so that people need to build social organizations to mutually support one another, and say that anything in between is a worse idea than either. These preferences are plausibly collapsible to a single dimension, but they still admit Arrow's problem because they are not single-peaked.

But in each case, it's not a problem for reality, it's a problem with our map. And if we're making decisions, we should want an accurate map - which is what the series of posts is hoping to help people build.

An Overview of Political Science (Policy and International Relations Primer for EA, Part 3)
Do you mean Aristotle’s “Politics”?

Yes, I did. Whoops, fixed.

In general, yes, international relations is a complex adaptive system, and that could be relevant. But I'm just not sure how far the tools of complexity theory can get you in this domain. I would agree that complexity science approaches seem closely related to game theoretic rational actor models, where slight changes can lead to wildly different results, and they are unstable in the chaos theory / complexity sense. I discuss that issue briefly in the next post, now online, but as far as I am aware, complexity theory not a focus anywhere in international relations or political science. (If you have links that discuss it, I'd love to see them.)

When To Find More Information: A Short Explanation

Good writeup, and cool tool. I may use it and/or point to it in the future.

I agree that when everything is already quantified, and you can do this. The chapter in HtMA is also fantastic. But it's fairly rare that people have already quantified all of the relevant variables and properly explored what the available decisions are or what they would affect - and not doing so can materially change the VoI, and are far more important to do anyways.

That said, no, basic VoI isn't hard. It's just that the use case is fairly narrow, and the conceptual approach is incredibly useful in the remainder of cases, even those cases where actually quantifying everything or doing to math is incredibly complex or even infeasible.

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