256Joined May 2015


I love this post. 

BTW, note that there have been two entries on closely related themes for the Cause Exploration Prize: here and here.

I think it is curious that effective altruism doesn't talk more about friendships or, more broadly, relationships. As far as I understand, relationships are a key determinant of happiness. Also, relationships are one of the first things that come to mind when objective list theorists try to explain to hedonists what might matter in addition to happiness. Relationships thus seem important.  

They also seems neglected: I can remember few deliberate policy interventions aimed at promoting good relationships. It might be such a cross-cutting and vague issue that it simply didn't occur to many that the broad goal of promoting good relationships merits intense attention.

It's a bit harder to see how it's tractable.  


There was something interesting I observed about myself: I have tried replacing reading the news by reading more relevant articles a number of times -- and I have failed just as many times. This made me realize that reading the news fulfils a certain purpose in my daily life and it is not information consumption. Rather it is: winding down, entertainment, etc. I usually read the news when having lunch. And when I tried intentionally reading something valuable (yes, I am thoroughly convinced that reading the news is hardly valuable) didn't deliver the same kind of reprieve.

I sincerely hope this cause will be taken as seriously as possible and thoroughly examined. 

On an anecdotal basis, I have been repeatedly surprised just how many people around me have had significant experiences along these lines. I would never have guessed this before my friends all were in child-bearing age.

I also think the relevance of this cause area might typically remain hidden from public sight because:

  1. less than half the population ever gives birth
  2. most people who do give birth, do so only once or very few times during their life
  3. if something goes wrong, they are in a uniquely bad position to follow-up given that life with a small child is a uniquely intense phase

We should also naturally be open to the idea that OV happens much more frequently than assumed given that 

  1. birthing persons are in a uniquely vulnerable situation
  2. health and safety concerns  - even if well-intentioned - always provide a plausible cover/excuse

It is so helpful to have this  overview assesment in concentrated form. 

In public debates about the pros & cons of economic growth in rich countries there is often the idea "Growth in rich countries is unimportant/bad -- but, yes,  for poor countries it is important to still grow". 

The kind of work you portray about spillovers puts the viability of the idea "growth in poor countries without growth in rich countries" into question and helpfully puts numbers on how strongly growth in rich countries is linked to growth in poor countries.  

A paper that Kian Mintz-Woo is working on is relevant: "Incentives for the Long-Term(ist)"

From the abstract: "To address long-term externalities, I propose internalizing long-term externalized costs: according to our best estimates of the long-term costs of an activity or product, this cost should be added."

You would have to ask him directly where he's currently at with his draft.

Many people - both in academia and policymaking - consider the concept of 'Knightian Uncertainty' (roughly, the absence of probabilities for decision-making) to be highly relevant (eg for the purpose of spelling out precautionary principles). Does the concept make sense? If not, is it a problem that many people find it practically relevant?

Looking for help: what's the opposite of counterfactual reasoning -- in other words: when EAs encourage counterfactual reasoning, what do they discourage?

I ask because I'm writing about good epistemic practices and mindsets. I am trying to structure my writing as a list of opposites (scout mindset vs soldier mindset, numerical vs verbal reasoning, etc). 

Would it be correct to say that in the case of counterfactual reasoning there is no real opposite? Rather, the appropriate contrast is: "counterfactual reasoning done well vs. counterfactual reasoning done badly"?

Thank you so much - this is the most helpful text I've read about this question!

I'd love it if someone were to write 

-- an equally detailed post about developing countries (rather than just something the length of section 4.4)

-- summarized how well it's possible to boost growth in developing countries without doing so in developed countries.

The thought is that the best case for economic growth leading to happiness would be along the following lines (excluding the link between growth and catastrophic/existential risk):
- growth doesn't hurt happiness in rich countries
- growth promotes happiness in poor countries
- growth in poor countries isn't possible without growth in rich countries

Brian Green, the author of the epilogue, has contributed to EA for Christians in a number of helpful ways in the past (eg

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