Davidmanheim

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Does any thorough discussion of moral parliaments exist?

We are hoping to kind-of address the issue in that post in a paper I'm working on with Anders Sandberg - I'll let you know when we're ready to share it, if you'd like.

Why we’re excited to fund charities’ work a few years in the future

I think that overall, this makes sense, but I'm surprised about an omission about counterfactual impact, a concent I would think would be significant. Specifically, is there any concern that (perhaps primarily non-EA) donors will see that the nonprofit is well-funded, and would counter-factually donated more to full the funding gap?

A (Very) Short History of the Collapse of Civilizations, and Why it Matters

I'd be comfortable with 1% - I'd take a bet at 100:1 conditional on land warfare in China or the US with a clear victor, they winner still would at the most extreme, restore a modified modern national government controlled by citizens that had heavy restrictions on what it was allowed to do, following the post-WWII model in Japan and Germany. (I'd take the bet, but in that case, I wouldn't expect both parties to survive to collect on the bet, whichever way it ends.)

That's because the post-WWII international system is built with structures that almost entirely prevent wars of conquest, and while I don't see that system as being strong, I also don't think the weaknesses are ones leading to those norms breaking down.

But maybe, despite sticking to my earlier claim, the post-WWII replacement of Japan's emperor with a democracy is exactly the class of case we should be discussing as an example relevant to the more general question of whether civilizations are conquered rather than collapse. And the same logic would apply to Iraq, and other nations the US "helped" along the road to democracy, since they were at least occasionally - though by no means always - failing states. And Iraq was near collapse because of conflict with Iran and sanctions, not because of internal decay. (I'm less knowledgeable about the stability of Japanese culture pre-WWII.)

A (Very) Short History of the Collapse of Civilizations, and Why it Matters

Yes, and I would include a significant discussion of this in a longer version of this post, or a paper. However, I think we mostly disagree about what people's priors or prior models were in choosing what to highlight. (I see no-one using historical records of invasions / conquered nations independent of when it contributed to a later collapse, as relevant to discussions of collapse.)

A (Very) Short History of the Collapse of Civilizations, and Why it Matters

China could replace the US as a dominant power, but they wouldn't actually take over the US the way nations used to conquer and replace the culture of other countries.

And I agree that it's not obvious that interconnection on net increases fragility, but I think that it's clear, as I argued in the paper, that technology which creates the connection is fragile, and getting more so.

A (Very) Short History of the Collapse of Civilizations, and Why it Matters

Yes, that seems clearer and accurate - but I think it's clear that the types of external societies that are developing independently and are able to mount an attack, as occurred for Greece, Rome, when Ghengis Khan invaded Europe, etc. That means that in my view the key source of external pressure to topple a teetering system that does not exist now, rather than competition between peer nations. That seems a bit more like what I think of as inducing a bias, but your point is still well taken.

A (Very) Short History of the Collapse of Civilizations, and Why it Matters

This was imprecise - I meant that collapses were catastrophes for the civilizations involved, and current collapses would also be catastrophes, one which I agree would be significantly worse if they impacted humanity's longer term trajectory. And yes, some collapses may have been net benefits - though I think the collapse of early agricultural societies did set those societies back, and were catastrophes for them - we just think that the direction of those societies was bad, so we're unperturbed that they collapsed. The same would be said of the once-impending collapse of the antebellum South in the US, where economics was going to destroy their economy, i.e. slavery. But despite the simplicity of the cause, slavery, I will greatly simplify the political dynamics leading to the outbreak of the civil war and say that they started a war to protect their culture instead of allowing the North to supplant them. This seems like a clear civilizational catastrophe, with some large moral benefits from ending slavery.

I think that unlike the Antebelllum south, and early exploitative agricultural societies, the collapse of Rome was also a collapse that hurt civilization's medium-term trajectory, despite taking quite a long time. And I'm hoping the ongoing collapse of the post-WWII international order isn't a similar devolution.

A (Very) Short History of the Collapse of Civilizations, and Why it Matters

The first issue is that my question was whether civilizations collapse - in the sense that the system collapses to the point where large portions die - infrequently or very infrequently. The argument is that conquered civilizations are "missing data" in that it seems very likely that an unstable or otherwise damaged society that has a higher chance of collapse, whether due to invasion or to other factors, also has a higher chance of being supplanted rather than us seeing a collapse. So I noted that we have data missing in a way that introduces a bias.

The second issue is what a collapse would look like and involve. Because civilization is more tightly interconnected, many types of collapse would be universal, rather than local. (See both Bostrom's Vulnerable world paper and my Fragile world paper for examples of how technology could lead to that occurring.) Great power wars could trigger or accelerate such a collapse, but they wouldn't lead to decoupled sociotechnical systems, or any plausible scenarios that would allow a winner to replace the loser.

Does that make sense?

What FHI’s Research Scholars Programme is like: views from scholars

As a semi-outside viewer, who both works with several people in RSP, and has visited FHI back in the good-old-non-pandemic days, I highly recommend that EAs both apply to the program, especially if they aren't sure if it's right for them (but see who this program is for,) and talk to or work with people in the program now.

That said, I think that these comments are both accurate, and don't fully reflect some of the ancillary benefits of the program - especially ones that are not yet experienced because they will only be obvious when talking to future alumni of the program. For example, in five years, I suspect alumni of the program will say:

  • It's very prestigious step on a CV for future work, especially for EAs that are considering policy or academic work outside of the narrow EA world, and would benefit from a boost in getting in.
  • It gives people (well-funded) time to work on expanding their horizons, and focus on making sure they can do or enjoy doing a given type of work. It can also set them up for their next step by giving them direct experience in almost any area they want to work in.
  • The network of RSPs is likely to be very valuable in the next decade as the RSP program grows and matures, and the alumni will presumably be able to stay connected to each other, and also to connect with current / past RSPs.
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