Denise_Melchin

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[Link] "Where are all the successful rationalists?"

This post seems to fail to ask the fundamental question "winning at what?". If you don't want to become a leading politician or entrepeneur, then applying rationality skills obviously won't help you get there.

The EA community (which is distinct from the rationality community, which the author fails to note) clearly has a goal however: doing a lot of good. How much money GiveWell has been able to move to AMF clearly has improved a lot over the past ten years, but as the author says, that only proves they have convinced others of rationality. We still need to check whether deaths from malaria have actually been going down a corresponding amount due to AMF doing more distributions. I am not aware of any investigations of this question.

Some people in the rationalist community likely only have 'understand the world really well' as their goal, which is hard to measure the success of, though better forecasts can be one example. I think the rationality community stocking up on food in February before it was sold out everywhere is a good example of a success, but probably not the sort of shining example the author might be looking for.

If your goal is to have a community where a specific rationalist-ish cluster of people shares ideas, it seems like the rationalist community has done pretty well.

[Edit: redacted for being quickly written, and in retrospective failing to engage with the author's perspective and the rationality community's stated goals]

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What actually is the argument for effective altruism?

Thank you so much for the podcast Ben (and Arden!), it made me excited to see more podcasts and post of the format 'explain basic frameworks and/or assumptions behind your thinking'. I particularly appreciated that you mentioned that regression to the mean has a different meaning in a technical statistical context than the more colloquial EA one you used.

One thing that I have been thinking about since reading the podcast is that you are explicitly defining increasing the amount of doing good by spending more of your resources as not part of the core idea of the EA if I understood correctly, and only trying to increase the amount of doing good per unit of resources. It was not entirely clear to me how large a role you think increasing the amount of resources people spend on doing good should play in the community.

I think I have mostly thought of increasing or meeting an unusually high threshold of resources spend on doing good as an important part of EA culture, but I am not sure whether others view it the same. I'm also not sure whether considering it as such is conducive to maximizing overall impact.

Anyway, this is not an objection, my thoughts are a bit confused and I'm not sure whether I'm actually properly interacting with something you said. I just wanted to express a weak level of surprise and that this part of your definition felt notable to me.

jackmalde's Shortform

I was thinking the same! I had to google Muzak, but that also seems like pretty nice music to me.

Denise_Melchin's Shortform

Something I have been wondering about is how social/'fluffy' the EA Forum should be. Most posts just make various claims and then the comments are mostly about disagreement with those claims. (There have been various threads about how to handle disagreements, but this is not what I am getting at here.) Of course not all posts fall in this category: AMAs are a good example, and they encourage people to indulge in their curiosity about others and their views. This seems like a good idea to me.

For example, I wonder whether I should write more comments pointing out what I liked in a post even if I don't have anything to criticise instead of just silently upvoting. This would clutter the comment section more, but it might be worth it by people feeling more connected to the community if they hear more specific positive feedback.

I feel like Facebook groups used to do more online community fostering within EA than they do now, and the EA Forum hasn't quite assumed the role they used to play. I don't know whether it should. It is valuable to have a space dedicated to 'serious discussions'. Although having an online community space might be more important than usual while we are all stuck at home.

Parenting: Things I wish I could tell my past self

Thank you so much for this post! It's one of these posts that gives the community a more community like feel which is nice.

To share my experience: I have two kids, they are 10 and 3.5. What I would tell my younger self before my first kid mostly revolves around "slack", everything else went very well! I think my predictions around what having a kid would be like were mostly pretty decent and mentally preparing for a lot of challenges paid off.

But one thing I did not fully account for is how having slack for my future plans matters and how having a child would reduce the amount of slack I had a lot. Slack would have been most relevant in case I wanted to change my future plans which I did not expect to change much (this is more of a young person error). I did not properly budget for opportunities opening up/maybe changing my mind. E.g. it had not occurred to me that going to university abroad might be a better option than in my home country, but that would have been very difficult with a child.

I think my predictions and mindset were actually more off before my second child. I think I was much less mentally prepared for challenges and did not budget for them in the same way as I had before my first child. Some of that was due to underestimating how different children can be and how much your experience can differ between different children. I had heard this from other parents, but did not really want it to be true, surely I knew what was up after one child already? As it turned out, my experiences were pretty different with both my children - with my first, sleep had never been that big of a deal, my second still does not quite properly sleep through the night at the age of 3.5 years. However, taking care of my second during daylight hours has been a lot easier than with my first, I didn't realise babies could be so easy!

Not mentally (and practically) preparing for challenges the same way for my second as I had before my first was partially the same mistake, but deserves its own mention. I find it a bit tricky to say how 'wrong' that was however, would I actually want to let my younger self before my second child know about the challenges I had? I was more engaged with wishful thinking, but babies are hard work, and maybe parents need a bit of wishful thinking to actually be willing to have another one. Otherwise hyperbolic discounting would stop them.

This is also the way I feel now - I'm hoping to have a third child soon-ish, but pretend to myself that everything will be easy peasy, because my tendency to hyperbolically discount might deter me. Deluding myself might just be correct.

I don't think I changed much as a person due to having children.

Thomas Kwa's Shortform

Strong upvoted. Thank you so much for providing further resources, extremely helpful, downloading them all on my Kindle now!

5,000 people have pledged to give at least 10% of their lifetime incomes to effective charities

I want to use the opportunity to point out that you can pledge more than 10%! This hasn't always been in my conscious awareness as much as it possibly should have been.

I pledged 10% in 2013, but changed my pledge to 20% a few months ago. :-)

What are words, phrases, or topics that you think most EAs don't know about but should?

Thank you for writing this! I once failed a job interview because what I learned from the EA community as a 'confidence interval' was actually a credible interval. Pretty embarrassing.

Buck's Shortform

It also looks like the post got a fair number of downvotes, and that its karma is way lower than for other posts by the same author or on similar topics. So it actually seems to me the karma system is working well in that case.

That's what I thought as well. The top critical comment also has more karma than the top level post, which I have always considered to be functionally equivalent to a top level post being below par.

Thomas Kwa's Shortform

I have recently been thinking about the exact same thing, down to getting anthropologists to look into it! My thoughts on this were that interviewing anthropologists who have done fieldwork in different places is probably the more functional version of the idea. I have tried reading fairly random ethnographies to built better intuitions in this area, but did not find it as helpful as I was hoping, since they rarely discuss moral worldviews in as much detail as needed.

My current moral views seem to be something close to "reflected" preference utilitarianism, but now that I think this is my view, I find it quite hard to figure out what this actually means in practice.

My impression is that most EAs don't have a very preference utilitarian view and prefer to advocate for their own moral views. You may want to look at my most recent post on my shortform on this topic.

If you would like to set up a call sometime to discuss further, please PM!

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