All of Denise_Melchin's Comments + Replies

Democratising Risk - or how EA deals with critics

Is there a non-PDF version of the paper available? (e.g. html)

From skimming a couple of the argments seem to be the same I brought up here so I'd like to read the paper in full, but knowing myself I won't have the patience to get through a 35 page pdf.

3Sean_o_h4moMe too.
Why I am probably not a longtermist

This is just a note that I still intend to respond to a lot of comments, but I will be slow! (I went into labour as I was writing my previous batch of responses and am busy baby cuddling now.)

Why I am probably not a longtermist

On your second bullet point what I would add to Carl's and Ben's posts you link to is that suffering is not the only type of disvalue or at least "nonvalue" (e.g. meaninglessness comes to mind). Framing this in Haidt's moral foundations theory, suffering is only addressing the care/harm foundation.

Also, I absolutely value positive experiences! More so for making existing people happy, but also somewhat for creating happy people. I think I just prioritise it a bit less than the longtermists around me compared to avoiding misery.

I will try to respond to the s-risk point elsewhere.

1Mauricio4moThanks! I'm not very familiar with Haidt's work, so this could very easily be misinformed, but I imagine that other moral foundations / forms of value could also give us some reasons to be quite concerned about the long term, e.g.: * We might be concerned with degrading--or betraying--our species / traditions / potential. * You mention meaninglessness--a long, empty future strikes me as a very meaningless one. (This stuff might not be enough to justify strong longtermism, but maybe it's enough to justify weak longtermism--seeing the long term as a major concern.) Oh, interesting! Then (with the additions you mentioned) you might find the arguments compelling?
Why I am probably not a longtermist

Thank you everyone for the many responses! I will address one point which came up in multiple comments here as a top-level comment, and otherwise respond to comments.

Regarding the length of the long-term future: My main concern here is that it seems really hard to reach existential security (i.e. extinction risks falling to smaller and smaller levels), especially given that extinction risks have been rising in recent decades. If we do not reach existential security the future population is much smaller accordingly and gets less weight in my considerations.... (read more)

This is just a note that I still intend to respond to a lot of comments, but I will be slow! (I went into labour as I was writing my previous batch of responses and am busy baby cuddling now.)

1Charles He4moI don’t understand. It seems that you could see the value of the long term future being unrelated to the probability of x risk. Then, the more you value the long term future, the more you value improving x risk. I think a sketch of the story might go: let’s say your value for reaching the best final state of the long term future is "V". If there's a 5%, 50%, or 99.99% risk of extinction, that doesn’t affect V (but might make us sadder that we might not reach it). Generally (e.g. assuming that x risk can be practically reduced) it’s more likely you would work on x-risk as your value of V is higher. It seems like this explains why the views are correlated, “extinction risks are rising so much, we must prioritize them!” and “there is lots of value in the long-term future”. So these views aren't a contradiction. Am I slipping in some assumption or have I failed to capture what you envisioned?
2JackM4moI think you mean to say 'existential risk' rather than 'extinction risk' in this comment? Something I didn't say in my other comment is that I do think the future could be very, very long under a misaligned AI scenario. Such an AI would have some goals, and it would probably be useful to have a very long time to achieve those goals. This wouldn't really matter if there was no sentient life around for the AI to exploit, but we can't be sure that this would be the case as the AI may find it useful to use sentient life. Overall I am interested to hear your view on the importance of AI alignment as, from what I've heard, it sounds like it could still be important taking into account your various views.
Why I am probably not a longtermist

Thanks for trying to summarise my views! This is helpful for me to see where I got the communication right and where I did not. I'll edit your summary accordingly where you are off:

  1. You have person-affecting tendencies which make you unconcerned less concerned with reducing extinction risks than longtermists, although you are still concerned about the nearterm impacts and put at least some value on the loss of future generations (which also depends on how long/big we can expect the future to be)
  2. You are suffering-focused [Edit: I would not have previousl
... (read more)
4JackM4moThanks for that. To be honest I would say the inaccuracies I made are down to sloppiness by me rather than by you not being clear in your communication. Having said that none of your corrections change my view on anything else I said in my original comment.
UK's new 10-year "National AI Strategy," released today

Wow. I am still reading through this, but I am impressed with the quality input the UK government has clearly received and how well they wrote up their considerations and conclusions. Maybe this is normal for the reference class for UK gov strategy documents (if so I was unaware), but it is not something I was expecting.

Does the Forum Prize lead people to write more posts?

More on that qualitative feedback: While people generally react quite positively to winning the prize, few people have explicitly told us it made them want to write more (even when we asked directly), and our surveys of the Forum's userbase haven’t found many people saying that the chance of winning a prize leads them to invest more time in writing.

Previously I think I responded that it did not motivate me to write more/better, but in retrospect I think this is just false. At least to me, it feels very arrogant to be hopeful that I could win a prize and therefore encourages dishonesty with myself. I expect this to be similar for other people.

5NunoSempere4moFor contrast, not the case for me.
Pandemic prevention in German parties' federal election platforms

Thank you, this was really interesting! I voted already, mostly based on global aid, refugee, animal welfare and climate change considerations, but I would have wanted to look at pandemic considerations too if I had known a quick way to do it at the time. So I expect this to be a very helpful overview for others!

1tilboy4moglad to hear that! share it far and wide ;) yea, writing this a bit earlier would have been good, next time i guess :)
Frank Feedback Given To Very Junior Researchers

I agree with the gist of this comment, but just a brief note that you do not need to do direct work to be "part of the EA community". Donating is good as well. :-)

3Linch2moI think a lot of this is an empirical question of what's needed. I think my own view is that some people in the position I described will grow stronger and contribute to the movement more if they are willing to try difficult ambitious things outside of the movement and come back when they/EA have both matured somewhat in slightly uncorrelated ways, rather than thinking of their impact as primarily through donations (which for most people may not look like trying their best to do a really good job either starting something new or trying hard to climb career ladders, but more like being relatively mediocre). It's an empirical question however, and I'm open to people thinking I'm wrong and the long-term impact-maximizing thing for almost everybody who aren't doing direct EA jobs is usually donations or relatively untargeted external jobs.
More EAs should consider “non-EA” jobs

I didn't originally, but then did when I could not get an offer for an EA job.

I do think in many cases EA org jobs will be better in terms of impact (or more specifically: high impact non-EA org jobs are hard to find) so I do not necessarily consider this approach wrong. Once you fail to get an EA job, you will eventually be forced to consider getting a non-EA job.

9tamgent5moI agree that if you choose at random from EA org and non-EA org jobs, you are more likely to have more impact at an EA org job. And I agree that there is work involved in finding a high impact non-EA job. However, I don't think the work involved in finding a high impact non-EA org job is hard because there are so few such opportunities out there, but because finding them requires more imagination/creativity than just going for a job at an EA org does. Maybe you could start a new AI safety team at Facebook or Amazon by joining, building the internal capital, and then proposing it. Maybe you can't because reasons. Either way, you learn by trying. And this learning is not wasted. Either you pave the way for others in the community, highlighting a new area where impact can be made. Or, if it turns out it's hard for reasons, then you've learnt why, and can pass that on to others who might try. Needless to say this impact finding strategy scales better than one where everyone is exclusively focused on EA org jobs (although you need some of that too). On a movement scale, I'd make a bet that we're too far in the direction of thinking that EA orgs is a better path to impact and have significantly under-explored ways of making impact in non-EA orgs, and there are social reasons why we'd naturally bias in that direction. Alternatively, like Sarah said elsewhere, it's just less visible. I just realised I haven't asked - why are high impact non-EA org jobs are hard to find, in your view?
Denise_Melchin's Shortform

Thank you for providing more colour on your view, that's useful!

Denise_Melchin's Shortform

I am still confused whether you are talking about full-time work. I'd very much hope a full-time community builder produces more value than a donation of a couple of thousand dollars to the EA Funds.

But if you are not discussing full-time work and instead part-time activities like occasionally hosting dinners on EA related themes it makes sense to compare this to 10% donations (though I also don't know why you are evaluating 10% donations at ~$2000, median salary in most rich countries is more than 10 times that).

But then it doesn't make sense to compare t... (read more)

2Benjamin_Todd5moI was thinking of donating 10% vs. some part time work / side projects. I agree that someone with the altruism willing to donate say 50% of their income but who isn't able to get a top direct work job could donate more like $10k - $100k per year (depending on their earning potential, which might be high if they're willing to do something like real estate, sales or management in a non-glamorous business). Though I still feel like there's a good chance there's someone that dedicated and able could find something that produces more impact than that, given the funding situation. I think I might prefer to have another EA civil servant than $50k per year, even if not in an especially influential position. Or I might prefer them to optimise for having a good network and then talking about EA ideas.
Denise_Melchin's Shortform

I think I agree that the cutoff is if anything higher than top 3% which is why I said originally 'at best'. The smaller that top number is the more glaring is the oversight not to mention this explicitly everytime we have conversations on this topic.

I have been thinking about the initiative bit, thank you for bringing it up. It seems to me that ability and initiative/independentmindedness somewhat tradeoff against each other, so if you are not on the top 3% (or whatever) for ability, you might be able to still have more impact through direct work than dona... (read more)

Denise_Melchin's Shortform

Hm, I agree that the most impactful careers are competitive, but the different careers themselves seem to require very different aptitudes and abilities so I'm not sure the same small group would be at the top of each of these career trajectories.

I agree with this. But I think adding all of these groups together won't result in much more than the top 3% of the population. You don't just need to be in the top 3% to be an AI safety researcher in terms of ability/aptitude for ML research, this will be much more selective. Say it's 0.3%. Same goes for direc... (read more)

2Khorton5moThat seems good to me!
Denise_Melchin's Shortform

The first thing that comes to mind here is that replaceability is a concern for direct work, but not for donations. Previously, the argument has been that replaceability does not matter as much for the very high impact roles as they are likely heavy tailed and therefore the gap between the first and second applicant large.

But that is not true anymore once you leave the tails, you get the full impact from donations but less impact from direct work due to replaceability concerns. This also makes me a bit confused about your statement that income is unusually... (read more)

Denise_Melchin's Shortform

[Focusing on donations vs. impact through direct work]

This is somewhat of a followup to this discussion with Jonas (where I think we mostly ended up talking past each other) as well as a response to posts like this one by Ben T.

In the threads above the authors are arguing that it makes more sense for “the community” to,say, focus on various impacts through direct work than through donations. I think this answer is the right type of answer for the question in which direction the community should be steered to maximise impact, so particularly relevant for pe... (read more)

7Linch5moI find myself pretty confused about how to think about this. Numerically, I feel like the level we're advising is at most top 3%, and probably more like top 1%ish? Some considerations that are hard for me to think through: * The current allocation and advice given by career EAs is very strongly geared towards very specific empirical views of a) the target audience of who we actually talk to/advise, b) what the situation/needs of the world looks like (including things like funding vs talent overhangs), and c) what we currently know about and are comfortable talking about. So for example right now the advice is best suited for the top X%, maybe even top 0.Y%, of ability/credentials/financial stability/etc. This may or may not change in 10-20 years. * And when we give very general career advice like "whether you should expect to have more of an impact through donations or direct work", it's hard to say something definitive without forecasts 10-20 years out. * The general point here is that many of our conclusions/memes are phrased like logical statements (eg claims about the distributions of outcomes being power-law or w/e), but they're really very specific empirical claims based on the situation as of 2014-2021 * Are you (and others) including initiative when you think about ability? This is related to smarts (in terms of seeing opportunities) and work ethic (in terms of pulling through on seizing opportunities when they happen), but it feels ultimately somewhat distinct. * When I think about EA-aligned ex-coworkers at Google, I'd guess ~all of them are in the top 3% for general ability (and will be in a higher percentile if you use a more favorable metric like programming ability or earning potential). But I'd still guess most of them wouldn't end up doing direct work, for reasons including but not limited to starting new projects etc being kind of annoying. * Like I

Very quick comment: I think I feel this intuition, but when I step back, I'm not sure why potential to contribute via donations should reduce more slowly with 'ability' than potential to contribute in other ways. 

If anything, income seems to be unusually heavy-tailed compared to direct work (the top two donors in EA account for the majority of the capital, but I don't think the top 2 direct workers account for the majority of the value of the labour).

I wonder if people who can't do the top direct work jobs wouldn't be able to have more impact by worki... (read more)

I generally agree with most of what you said, including the 3%. I'm mostly writing for that target audience, which I think is probably at least a partial mistake, and seems worth improving.

I'm also thinking that there seem to be quite a few exceptions. E.g., the Zurich ballot initiative I was involved in had contributors from a very broad range of backgrounds. I've also seen people from less privileged backgrounds make excellent contributions in operations-related roles, in fundraising, or by welcoming newcomers to the community. I'm sure I'm missing many ... (read more)

4Khorton5moHm, I agree that the most impactful careers are competitive, but the different careers themselves seem to require very different aptitudes and abilities so I'm not sure the same small group would be at the top of each of these career trajectories. For example when Holden* talks about options like becoming a politician, doing conceptual research, being an entrepreneur, or skillfully managing the day-to-day workings of an office I just don't see the same people succeeding in all of those paths. In my view the majority of people currently involved in EA could develop a skillset that's quite useful for direct work. * []
3Charles He5moThis seems "right", but really, I don't truly know. One reason I'm uncertain because I don't know the paths you are envisioning for these people. Do you have a sense of what paths are available to the 3%, maybe writing out very briefly, say 2 paths that they could reliably succeed in, e.g. we would be comfortable advising them today to work on? For more context, what I mean is, building on this point: So while I agree that the top 3% of people have access to these options, my sense is that influencing policy and being top grant makers have this "central planner"-like aspect. We would probably only want a small group of people involved for multiple reasons. I would expect the general class of such roles and even their "support" to be a tiny fraction of the population. So it seems getting a sense of the roles (or even some much broader process in some ideal world where 3% of people get involved) is useful to answer your question.
Denise_Melchin's Shortform

In case you didn't know it yet, you can access a user list of the EA Forum here, where you can see and sort by karma, post count and comment count.

[PR FAQ] Adding profile pictures to the Forum

I am not Larks, but I really like having the Forum as a space where appearance is ~irrelevant. There are not many such (EA) spaces and I do not want the main one where only thoughts matter being taken away. In my experience, people including EAs do treat you differently based on how you look. It is nice not to have to deal with that for once.

[PR FAQ] Adding profile pictures to the Forum

I am not a fan either. Something I'd much rather like to see is more encouragement to use identifiable user names. Many people do, especially longer term users, but increasingly many people do not.

I'm guessing you haven't seen, so let me show off the new signup flow!

Effective Altruism Polls: A resource that exists

Hi Aaron, thanks for sharing these!

I think it would be best to blur names and pictures however unless you asked for consent by everyone who is depicted. I have not voted in any of the polls, but if I had I would have done it with the assumption that this cannot be traced back to me outside of Facebook.

7Aaron Gertler7moThanks for the note. The group is open for anyone to join, so poll responses won't be anonymous, but I've removed the images from this Forum post to keep everything on Facebook.
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 a... (read more)

2AnonymousEAForumAccount9moThis is a really insightful comment. The dynamic you describe is a big part of why I think we should defer to people like Peter Singer even if he doesn’t work on cause prioritization full time. I assume (perhaps incorrectly) that he’s read stuff like Superintelligence, The Precipice, etc. (and probably discussed the ideas with the authors) and just doesn’t find their arguments as compelling as Ryan.
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.

4MichaelA9moGlad to hear that! I'll be interested to see yours once it's out, partly just because this sort of thing seems interesting in general and partly in case the structure you land on is better than my one. (I expected some confusion to be created by the fact that my approach just shows a single, conjunctive chain, and by the fact that much of the clarifications and justifications and implications are tucked away in the spreadsheet itself. And comments so far have indicated that those concerns may indeed have been justified.)
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, t... (read more)

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... (read more)

4Max_Daniel9moI'm also inclined to agree with this. I actually only very recently realized that a similar point had also been made in the literature: in this 2019 'discussion note' [] by Lok Lam Yim, which is a reply to Greaves's cluelessness paper:
6JackM10moTo be honest I'm not really sure how important there being a distinction between simple and complex cluelessness actually is. The most useful thing I took from Greaves was to realise there seems to be an issue of complex cluelessness in the first place - where we can't really form precise credences in certain instances where people have traditionally felt like they can, and that these instances are often faced by EAs when they're trying to do the most good. Maybe we're also complexy clueless about what day to conceive a child on, or which chair to sit on, but we don't really have our "EA hat on" when doing these things. In other words, I'm not having a child to do the most good, I'm doing it because I want to. So I guess in these circumstances I don't really care about my complex cluelessness. When giving to charity, I very much do care about any complex cluelessness because I'm trying to do the most good and really thinking hard about how to do so. I'm still not sure if I would class myself as complexly clueless when deciding which chair to sit on (I think from a subjective standpoint I at least feel simply clueless), but I'm also not sure this particular debate really matters.
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 chil... (read more)

1Jakob_J10moThanks for sharing your perspective! It seems like having a family in major metropolitan areas are especially challenging due to the much higher housing cost. I am wondering if you have any examples of the types of jobs you think would be difficult to afford raising a family in London (alternatively, what salary)? For example, it seems that a civil servant could earn £40,000 per year after a few years of experience, and I suspect other sectors where EAs would want to work might pay a similar amount (academia, NGOs etc). Regarding having lots of time, it is true that being a stay at home parent leads to substantial loss of income. What I was wondering was more along the lines of: is it worth trying to earn say £80,000+ per year working in finance just to be able to afford a larger house, but working 80+hours/week, when say a civil servant would have fixed 40 working hours per week, free weekends, but earning half as much. In terms of income vs time, my intuition is that time is more valuable than income when having children, even if it means saving on housing costs.
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

... (read more)
5Jonas Vollmer10moThanks for clarifying – I basically agree with all of this. I particularly agree that the "government job" idea needs a lot more careful thinking and may not turn out to be as great as one might think. I think our main disagreement might be that I think that donating large amounts effectively requires an understanding of EA ideas and altruistic dedication that only a small number of people are ever likely to develop, so I don't see the "impact through donations" route as an unusually strong argument for doing EA messaging in a particular direction or having a very large movement. And I consider the fact that some people can have very impactful careers a pretty strong argument for emphasizing the careers angle a bit more than the donation angle (though we should keep communicating both). (Disclaimer: Written very quickly.) I also edited my original comment (added a paragraph at the top) to make this clearer; I think my previous comment kind of missed the point.
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) ... (read more)

Edit: I think my below comment kind of misses the point – my main response is simply: Some people could probably do a huge amount of good by, e.g., helping increase meat alternatives R&D budgets, this seems a much bigger opportunity than increasing donations and similarly tractable, so we should focus more on that (while continuing to also increase donations).


Some quick thoughts:

  • 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 popu
... (read more)
6Denkenberger10moThough I was surprised when I read the results of the first EA survey because I was expecting the majority of non-student EAs would donate 10% of their pretax income, I don't think that saying that EA donations are extremely low is quite fair. The mean donation of EAs in the 2019 survey was 7.5% [] . The mean donation of Americans of pretax income is about 3.6% [] . However, with a significant number of EAs outside of the US giving less, the fact that many EAs are students, and the since I think that the EA mean is by person rather than weighted by donation (as the US average number is), I would guess EAs donate about 3-5 times as much as the same demographic that is not an EA. I do think that we could do better, and a lot of good could come from more donations.
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 ... (read more)

4Habryka10moI am unsure how to think about satisfaction data. My general model is that lots of satisfaction data is biased upwards and I can't really imagine a negative result from that survey, so I really don't know how much to update on it. I would currently just ignore it, unless someone had a really clever study design where they have some kind of other intervention that is similarly costly and had similar social expectations, but we know is bad for people, that we could use as a control. And yes, I think concerns like infertility, same-sex couples, and many other things like that can make adoption the best choice for people who really want to have children. But I do think the costs would still be there, you might just not have an alternative. I also think one can reduce the costs here by a lot by trying to find one of the best kids to adopt, or doing weirder things like trying to find a surrogate mother, which will probably have much less adverse selection effects (though I haven't thought through this case very much). My concern is much more about the naive way most people seem to handle adoptions, and I think there are ways to reduce the risk to a level where the tradeoffs become much less harsh.
Please stand with the Asian diaspora

Despite the lack of good data, I suspect that it is indeed the case that anti-asian crimes have risen significantly this year. We known that violent crime in general has increased significantly since the BLM protests/riots of last summer, and that attacks on asians are disproportionately caused by blacks (28% for 2018, the last year we have data, vs just 15% for white and hispanic victims). So my guess is that reductions in policing as a result of the protests have left many asians exposed. Most races are primarily victimised by others of the same race (6

... (read more)

I am wondering whether you are talking about the US only?

Yes - the US is the country whose data I am most familiar with, and the article is written by someone at Cornell (in America) about an event that took place in America and contains a link to a list of resources by Americans providing advice for Americans. The US also has an unusually high asian population for a non asian majority country, which makes this issue more significant than in e.g. Switzerland  or Japan.

It's possible that this is also happening in other countries. Certainly Americans of... (read more)

AMA: Toby Ord @ EA Global: Reconnect

+1, very interested in this. I didn't find the reasons in the Precipice that compelling/not detailed enough, so I'd be curious for more.

Against neutrality about creating happy lives

Maybe this is just an ex post vs. ex ante distinction? If children with unfortunate lives think they just got unlucky and think their lives would have been positive in expectancy, they might not think that their parents did anything morally wrong. But they might feel differently if the parents knew their children would have a very serious genetic medical condition.

(But this is wild speculation, I have not checked for any empirical data on this.)

In my answer I was assuming that the children go to school (usually between 9am-3:30pm in the UK) and I'd guess Greg was assuming the same, therefore only having to cover 1-2 hours working while children are present each day.

Otherwise I agree, this is much harder if children don't go to school!

It seems to me Greg was talking about school-age children where I think having a WFH parent will often be sufficient. I agree having a WFH parent for small children isn't much help, as taking care of them is usually a full-time job on its own.

That said, most of the childcare cost in the UK does seem to come from the first few years (as it is a full-time job) and not from when children are school-age.

Why Hasn't Effective Altruism Grown Since 2015?

I completely agree with this, thank you for writing it up! This is also an issue I have with some elements of the 'drifting' debate - I'm not too fussed whether someone stays involved in the EA community (though I think it can be good to check whether there have been new insights), I care about people actually still doing good.

Progress Open Thread: March 2021

First of all, it's great that you are considering this (or are already most of the way there?)!

Here was a discussion on the same topic that might interest you. If you have Facebook and would like to join the Parents in Effective Altruism group, there was also a discussion on this topic here.

Good luck!

Edit: I also really enjoyed the story of this couple which adopted over 20 children. They were featured in the book Strangers Drowning covering highly altruistically motivated people, which included stories about EAs as well.

Progress Open Thread: March 2021

I strongly disagree with this comment for various reasons, and for the sake of my nerves I won't go through them all. Just one thing:

Usually the argument for adopting an older child is not that you can expect to raise their IQ points a bit or their income in adulthood. But twin adoption studies also show, and Caplan discusses that in his book, that treating your children well is something that will make a difference to them by how they remember and relate to you. The foster system is often a pretty awful experience to children, so you will make their life better by giving them a loving home, even if it will never show on their IQ tests. Feeling loved and cared for matters.

Doing good is as good as it ever was

Hi Milan,

This was now quite a while ago but I have spent some time trying to figure out why I don't find cluelessness arguments persuasive. After we spent a bunch of time deconfusing ourselves, Alex has written up almost everything I could say on the subject in a long comment chain here.

2Milan_Griffes1yThanks... I replied on that thread.
Running an AMA on the EA Forum

Maybe a group AMA thread would be a good idea, where everyone can post a comment that they are happy to answer questions?

2Aaron Gertler1yThis is a nice idea! One slight downside of a group AMA thread is that it's not quite as easily indexable as smaller AMA threads would be (harder to get good tags on it, harder for people to know it's a thing they're interested in based on the title). But I still think it would be a clear net positive if this were to exist. I could post one of these, but I think it would also be good to have it come from a more grassroots source than the head moderator -- Denise, would you be down to post something, assuming that you would be willing to answer questions on some topic? (I can also do it, just wanted to give you the first shot.)
6riceissa1yAnother idea is to set up conditional AMAs, e.g. "I will commit to doing an AMA if at least n people commit to asking questions." This has the benefit of giving each AMA its own time (without competing for attention with other AMAs) while trying to minimize the chance of time waste and embarrassment.
Open and Welcome Thread: February 2021

Your observations is correct. How much karma you start off with depends on the amount of karma you have - unfortunately I don't know the minimum required to start off with 2 karma. The more karma you have, the more weighty your strong upvotes become as well (mine are 7 karma, before I hit 2500 karma it was 6).

8Habryka1yHere is the relevant section of the code: In other words, you get 2 small-vote power at 1000 karma, and you can look at the numbers above to see the multipliers for strong-votes.
1JackM1yAh, well you learn something new every day, thanks.
Retention in EA - Part II: Possible Projects

Regarding helping people with major life transitions, I just wanted to mention that there is a (reasonably active) Parents in Effective Altruism Facebook group! We are also keen to hear from people who are not parents yet, but are considering becoming parents in the future.

3Julia_Wise1y []
5Larks1yThere are a lot of Facebook groups exist because there is an obvious niche but don't really have enough quality content to justify themselves, but the Parents group is actually pretty good; I definitely recommend if you're a parent and want to chat with similar other people.
CEA update: Q4 2020

(I'm German, but have lived in the UK for 4.5 years now.)

My best guess is that you are both right, and large cultural differences are at play. I found this really bizarre when I moved to the UK. In Germany, you are an ambitious overachiever if you have a 'career plan' at 22. In the UK this is standard.

Among educated Germans, people take longer to finish their degrees, are more likely to take gap years, change degrees. Internships seem to be much rarer. The 'summer internship' system does not seem to exist as much in Germany, and just is not considered nece... (read more)

2MaxDalton1yInteresting! Thanks for sharing.
Why do content blockers still suck?

Thanks for the response! Freedom unfortunately just stopped working for me many times. After I uninstalled and reinstalled it for the fifth time (which makes it work again for a while) and the customer service had no idea what was going on, I gave up. I still use it for my phone however.

I don't think there is anything on the market which blocks things by default, which is the primary feature I am looking for, plus much more fine grained blocking (e.g. inability to access or google content containing specific phrases).

2John_Maxwell1ySorry to hear about that. Not sure if this is helpful, but I turn my internet blocker on every night before bed, and only turn it on the next day after a self-imposed [] mandatory waiting period.
The ten most-viewed posts of 2020

I'd still be curious how many unique views there are - I'm pretty surprised at the high view counts above. I had expected the discrepancy between unique views and upvotes to be smaller.

Are there just a lot of silent readers who never upvote or do the same readers who already upvoted click on the post again and again (to read the comments)?

Yep, 90% of readers on LW and the EA Forum never vote. And 90% of voters never comment. This holds empirically for lots of forums. 

7DavidNash1yGenerally for most engagement there is a vast discrepancy between viewers, people who interact and people who comment/post. 1% rule [] - link with more details.

Many of the posts here are either highly ranked for certain Google searches or were featured in a major news story, so I'm not surprised they brought in lots of silent readers who never considered making an account. Even the posts that weren't in those categories were shared widely in the broader EA community, and many of those people also don't have Forum accounts.

Unique views were pretty close to total views. Here's a quick screenshot of the two figures for the top ten posts:

I imagine that most repeat views are people reading comments, though it surprise... (read more)

New infographic based on "The Precipice". any feedback?

This looks great! And I agree with Aslan that the minesweeper edition feels very different and I am glad you created it.

One note: existential risks are a distinct concept to both extinction risks and global catastrophic risks. Table 6.1 in Toby's book describes existential risks which is what you are depicting here - existential risks include extinction risk but also the risk that humanity will turn into a permanent dystopia as well as permanent civilisational collapse (but humanity lives on).

Global catastrophic risks are different again: they are risks that kill at least 10% of the human population.

1michael.andregg1yThanks for the tip! I'll change to existential risks
The Folly of "EAs Should"

I don't currently know of a reliable way to actually do a lot of good as a doctor.

I do know of such a way, but that might be because we have different things in mind when we say 'reliably do a lot of good'.

Some specialisations for doctors are very high earning. If someone was on the path to being a doctor and could still specialise in one of them, that is what I would suggest as an earning-to-give strategy. If they might also do a great job as a quant trader, I would also suggest checking that out. But I doubt most doctors make good quant traders, so it... (read more)

9Habryka1yYeah, I do think this is plausible. When I last did a fermi on this I tended to overestimate the lifetime earnings of doctors because I didn't properly account for the many years of additional education required to become one, which often cost a ton of money and of course replace potential other career paths during that same time, so my current guess is that while being a doctor is definitely high-paying, I think it's not actually that great for EtG. The key difference here does seem to be whether you are already past the point where you finished your education. After you finished med-school or maybe even have your own practice, then it's pretty likely being a doctor will be the best way for you to earn lots of money, but if you are trying to decide whether to become a doctor and haven't started med-school, I think it's rarely the right choice from an impact perspective.
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