Denise_Melchin

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Rodents farmed for pet snake food

There's something about this exchange I find super charming, thank you for sharing. Maybe how kind you both are, trying to help each other, with both of you earnestly motivated by completely different target audiences - you trying to do well by rats and mice, and the snake owner by snakes.

Launching a new resource: 'Effective Altruism: An Introduction'

I like this comment! But I think I would actually go a step further:

I don’t dispute the expertise of the people you listed.

I haven't thought too hard about this, but I think I do actually dispute the expertise of the people Ryan listed. But that is nothing personal about them!

When I think of the term 'expert' I usually have people in mind who are building on decades of knowledge of a lot of different practitioners in their field. The field of global priorities has not existed long enough and has not developed enough depth to have meaningful expertise as I think of the term.

I am very happy to defer to experts if they have orders of magnitude more knowledge than me in a field. I will gladly accept the help of an electrician for any complex electrical problem despite the fact that I changed a light switch that one time.

But I don't think that applies to global priorities for people who are already heavily involved in the EA community - the gap between these EAs and the global priorities 'experts' listed in terms of knowledge about global priorities is much, much smaller than between me and electrician about electrics. So it's much less obvious whether it makes sense for these people to defer.

My personal cruxes for focusing on existential risks / longtermism / anything other than just video games

Thank you for writing this! I'm currently drafting something similar and your post gave me some new ideas on how to structure it so it would be easy to follow.

Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time

This is really cool, thank you! :-)

One thought: it is much easier now than it used to be to look at highly upvoted posts. In the old forum old popular posts simply fell by the wayside, now you can sort by them. We also now have the favourites section which encourages people to read highly upvoted posts they haven't read yet.

So I think highly popular posts now look more popular than they really are compared to the past even according to your metric.

Also, I'm proud to say I guessed the most well received forum post according to your metric correctly!

Jakob_J's Shortform

I was thinking of a salary in the mid £40k range when I said that I feel like I need a higher salary to be able to afford living in London with children as it is my salary as a civil servant. :-) That is significantly above median and average UK salary. And still ~20% above median London salary, though I struggled to quickly find numbers for average London salary.

I think if you have two people earning £40k+ each having kids in London is pretty doable even if both are GWWC pledgers. I think I'd feel uncomfortable if both parents brought in less than £30k, though it would be fine in different areas of the UK.

Only few people in the UK can earn above £80k. Most people have kids anyway. I personally wouldn't think the trade-off you are suggesting is worth it on selfish/child benefiting grounds alone (ignoring EtG potential). But different parents want to make different trade-offs for their children, they value different things.

If you are surrounded by people who think £80k salaries are a necessity to raise children, maybe you would find it helpful to surround yourself more with many different kinds of families of different socioeconomic backgrounds. Their kids can be happy too :-)

Possible misconceptions about (strong) longtermism

When this post went up, I wrote virtually the same comment, but never sent it! Glad to see you write it up, as well as your below comments. I have the impression that in each supposed example of 'simple cluelessness' people just aren't being creative enough to see the 'complex cluelessness' factors, as you clarify with chairs in other comment.

My original comment even included saying how Phil's example of simple cluelessness is false, but it's false for different reasons than you think: If you try to conceive a child a day later, this will not in expectancy impact when the child will be born. The impact is actually much stronger than that. It will affect whether you are able to conceive in this cycle at all, since eggs can only be fertilized during a very brief window of time (12-24 hours). If you are too late, no baby.

Jakob_J's Shortform

This depends on where you live. But for Europe and the US, usually the biggest expense factors are housing (bigger place required, particularly in the long term) and childcare (both in terms of paid childcare for young children as well as lost wages). In some countries, childcare is subsidized however, sometimes heavily so, reducing the costs.

If just having lots of time was most important for being "successful" in raising a family, it would still cost a lot of money - it is time you cannot spend working.

When I lived in Germany with heavily subsidized childcare, I never felt like I needed to earn a lot of money to have children. Living in the UK now, particularly in London, with very little subsidized childcare, I feel more forced to have a higher earning job.

Julia has written about her experience here.

Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

I personally think the EA community could plausibly grow 1000-fold compared to its current size, i.e. to 2 million people, which would correspond to ~0.1% of the Western population. I think EA is unlikely to be able to attract >1% of the (Western and non-Western) population primarily because understanding EA ideas (and being into them) typically requires a scientific and prosocial/altruistic mindset, advanced education, and the right age (no younger than ~16, not old enough to be too busy with lots of other life goals). Trying to attract >1% of the population would in my view likely lead to a harmful dilution of the EA community. We should decide whether we want to grow more than 1000-fold once we've grown 100-fold and have more information.

I meant this slightly differently than you interpreted it I think. My best guess is that less than 10% of the Western population are capable of entering potentially high impact career paths and we already have plenty of people in the EA community for whom this is not possible. This can be for a variety of reasons: they are not hard-working enough, not smart enough, do not have sufficient educational credentials, are chronically ill, etc. But maybe you think that most people in the current EA community are very well qualified to enter high impact career paths and our crux is there?

While I agree that government jobs are easier to get into than other career paths lauded as high impact in the EA Community (at least this seems to be true for the UK civil service), my impression is that I am a lot more skeptical than other EAs that government careers are a credible high impact career path. I say this as someone who has a government job. I have written a bit about this here, but my thinking on the matter is currently very much a work in progress and the linked post does not include most reasons why I feel skeptical. To me it seems like a solid argument in favour has just not been made.

I would feel excited about a project that tries to find out why donation rates are low (lack of money? lack of room for more funding? saving to give later and make donations more well-reasoned by giving lump sums? a false perception that money won't do much good anymore? something else?) and how we might increase them. (What's your guess for the reasons? I'd be very interested in more discussion about this, it might be worth a separate EA Forum post if that doesn't exist already.)

I completely agree with this (and I think I have mentioned this to you before)! I'm afraid I only have wild guesses why donation rates are low. More generally, I'd be excited about more qualitative research into understanding what EA community members think their bottlenecks to achieving more impact are.

Some quick notes on "effective altruism"

The EA community would probably greatly increase its impact if it focused a bit less on personal donations and a bit more on spending ODA budgets more wisely, improving developing-world health policy, funding growth diagnostics research, vastly increasing government funding for clean meat research, etc.

I think I disagree with this given what the community currently looks like. (This might not be the best place to get into this argument, since it's pretty far from the original points you were trying to make, but here we go.)

Two points of disagreement:

i) The EA Survey shows that current donation rates by EAs are extremely low. From this I conclude that there is way too little focus on personal donations within the EA community. That said, if we get some of the many EAs which are donating very little to work on the suggestions you mention, that is plausibly a net improvement, as the donation rates are so low anyway.

Relatedly, personal donations are one of the few things that everyone can do. In the post, you write that "The longer-term goal is for the EA community to attract highly skilled students, academics, professionals, policy-makers, etc.", but as I understand the terms you use, this is probably less than 10% of the Western population. But maybe you disagree with that?

Accordingly, I do not view this as the longer-term goal of the EA community, but only one of them. Most of the other people who cannot have high-flying high-impact careers, which is most people, should focus on maximizing donations instead.

ii) I think the EA community currently does not have the expertise to reliably have a positive impact on developing world policy. It is extremely easy to do harm in this area. Accordingly, I am also sceptical of the idea to introduce a hits-based global development fund, though I would need to understand better with what you are intending there. I would be very keen for the EA community to develop expertise in this area and some of the suggestions you make e.g growth diagnostics research should help with that. But we are very far from having expertise right now and should act accordingly.

Progress Open Thread: March 2021

So despite the fact that I spent quite a while thinking about adopting vs. having biological children a few years ago and came out in favour of having biological children for now based on similar concerns you (and Dale) raise about more adverse outcomes in adopted children, I find your conclusion to strongly dissuade from adopting very surprising.

You thinking that adopting might likely be a life-destroying mistake does not seem to line up with the adoption satisfaction data Aaron linked. Maybe you meant this specifically for adopting teenagers? It was not clear from your comment.

In many ways, I prefer more awareness about difficulties in adopting over the naive 'why don't you just adopt?!' do-gooders who want to have children often hear. So I am grateful that this topic is brought up, I would just prefer a more clear pointing out of trade-offs, as well as more emotional sensitivity on the topic.

When I looked into this, I looked more at qualitative accounts (and also tried to answer a slightly different question - does demand from potential parents for low-risk adopted children outstrip how many such children there are?) and less at quantitative data. While this seems like a clear oversight in retrospect, apparently this led me to a more negative impression than is warranted now looking at the data you linked. If you had told me that 1,5% of biological children have substantial drug abuse problems as defined in the paper and asked me to guess the percentage for adopted children, I would have guessed way more than 3,5%. I was also surprised by the adoption satisfaction data Aaron linked. So if anything, you are leaving me with a more positive impression of adoption, and are motivating me to look into the topic again.

Thus I am surprised you are so confident in your position you would be willing to spend so much time on dissuading people to adopt. (You are welcome to try to dissuade me that this is even worth my time looking into it!) To me, the outcomes do not seem to be 'very predictably bad'.

While on average adopted children have worse outcomes than biological children, this really does not need to be true for each individual making this choice. It is also not the only factor which matters. To name some examples which can tilt the decision: infertility, same-sex couples, previous difficult pregnancies or birth trauma, family history of genetic diseases like Huntington's, more garden-variety heritable risk factors for issues like ADHD, autism and depression, how high risk the potential adoptive children actually are, e.g. based on their age and previous history, etc.

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