Dr. David MathersLocation: Penicuik, Scotland, United KingdomRemote: YesWilling to relocate: Yes Skills: Research, especially in philosophy, forecasting.CV: Dr. David Mathers-CV-June 2022 - Google DocsEmail: email@example.comNotes: -PhD in philosophy from the University of Oxford. -Giving What We Can member since 2012-Last summer as a research intern for Rethink Priorities I wrote a 50 000 word report in 4 months on a technical issue in the philosophy of mind relevant to cause priortization.-Currently taking part in a forecasting tournamen... (read more)
It seems really bad, from a communications/PR point of view, to write something that was ambiguous in this way. Like, bad enough that it makes me slightly worried that MIRI will commit some kind of big communications error that gets into the newspapers and does big damage to the reputation of EA as a whole.
'Here’s one data point I can offer from my own life: Through a mixture of college classes and other reading, I’m pretty confident I had already encountered the heuristics and biases literature, Bayes’ theorem, Bayesian epistemology, the ethos of working to overcome bias, arguments for the many worlds interpretation, the expected utility framework, population ethics, and a number of other ‘rationalist-associated’ ideas before I engaged with the effective altruism or rationalist communities.'I think some of this is just a result of being a community founded ... (read more)
Speaking for myself, I was interested in a lot of the same things in the LW cluster (Bayes, approaches to uncertainty, human biases, utilitarianism, philosophy, avoiding the news) before I came across LessWrong or EA. The feeling is much more like "I found people who can describe these ideas well" than "oh these are interesting and novel ideas to me." (I had the same realization when I learned about utilitarianism...much more of a feeling that "this is the articulation of clearly correct ideas, believing otherwise seems dumb").That said, some of the ideas ... (read more)
the main titled professorship in ethics at that time was held by John Broome, a utilitarianism-sympathetic former economist, who had written famous stuff on expected utility theory. I can't remember if he was the PhD supervisor of anyone important to the founding of EA, but I'd be astounded if some of the phil. people involved in that had not been reading his stuff and talking to him about it.
Indeed, Broome co-supervised the doctoral theses of both Toby Ord and Will MacAskill. And Broome was, in fact, the person who advised Will to get in touch with Toby, before the two had met.
'If you'd always assumed he's wrong about literally everything, it should be telling for you that OP had to go 15 years back to get good examples.' How strong evidence this is also depends on whether he has made many resolvable predictions since 15-years ago, right? If he hasn't it's not very telling. To be clear, I genuinely don't know if he has or hasn't.
For all I know, you maybe right or not (insofar as I follow what's being insinuated), but whilst I freely admit that l, like anyone who wants to work in EA, have self-interested incentives to not be too critical of Eliezer, there is no specific secret "latent issue" that I personally am aware of and consciously avoiding talking about. Honest.
I'm not sure I can argue for this, but it feels weird and off-putting to me that all this energy is being spent discussing how good a track-record one guy has, especially one guy with a very charismatic and assertive writing-style, and a history of attempting to provide very general guidance for how to think across all topics (though I guess any philosophical theory of rationality does the last thing.) It just feels like a bad sign to me, though that could just be for dubious social reasons.
The question of how much to defer to E.Y.
Ah, I made an error here, I misread what was in which thread and thought Amber was talking about Gwern's comment rather than your original post. The post itself is fine! Sorry!
For what it's worth, as a layperson, I found it pretty hard to follow properly. I also think there's a selection effect where people who found it easy will post but people who found it hard won't.
I suspect that it varies within the domain of X-risk focused work how weird and cultish it looks to the average person. I think both A.I. risk stuff and a generic "reduce extinction risk" framing will look more "religious" to the average person than "we are worried about pandemics an nuclear wars."
Also, I doubt Torres is writing in bad faith exactly. "Bad faith" to me has connotations of 'is saying stuff they know to be untrue', when with Torres I'm sure he believes what he's saying he's just angry about it, and anger biases.
In my view, Phil Torres' stuff, whilst not entirely fair, and quite nasty rhetorically, is far from the worst this could get. He actually is familiar with what some people within EA think in detail, reports that information fairly accurately, even if he misleads by omission somewhat*, and makes criticisms of controversial philosophical assumptions of some leading EAs that have some genuine bite, and might be endorsed by many moral philosophers. His stuff actually falls into the dangerous sweet spot where legitimate ideas, like 'is adding happy people... (read more)
Obvious point, but you could assign significant credence to this being the right take, and still think working on A.I. risk is very good in expectation, given exceptional neglectedness and how bad an A.I. takeover could be. Something feels sleazy and motivated about this line of defence to me, but I find it hard to see where it goes wrong.
One (probably surmountable but non-trivial in my view) problem with this is that once you start trying to draft a statement about exactly what attitude we have to capitalism/economics you'll start to see underlying diversity beneath "don't want to abolish capitalism." This, I predict, will make it trickier than it seems to come up with anything clear and punchy that everyone can sign onto.
In particular, leaving aside for a minute people with actually anti-capitalist views, you'll start to see a split between people with actual neo-liberal or libertarian e... (read more)
Yeah, you're probably right. It's just I got a strong "history=Western history" vibe from the comment I was responding to, but maybe that was unfair!
Most whites had abhorent views on race at certain points in the past (probably not before 1500 though, unless Medieval antisemitism counts) but that is weak evidence that most people did, since whites were always a minority. I'm not sure many of us know what if any racial views people held in Nigeria, Iran, China or India in 1780.
i'd be pretty surprised if almost everyone didn't have strongly racist views in 1780. Anti-black views are very prevalent in India and China today, as I understand it. eg Gandhi had pretty racist attitudes.
I seem to remember learning about rampant racism in China helping to cause the Taiping rebellion? And there are enormous amounts of racism and sectarianism today outside Western countries - look at the Rohingya genocide, the Rwanda genocide, the Nigerian civil war, the current Ethiopian civil war, and the Lebanese political crisis for a few examples.
Every one of these examples should be taken with skepticism as this is far outside my area of expertise. But while I agree with the sentiment that we often conflate the history of the world with the history of white people, I'm not sure it's true in this specific case.
For what it's worth, I think the basic critique of total utilitarianism of 'it's just obviously more important to save a life than to bring a new one into existence' is actually very strong. I think insofar as longtermist folk don't see that, it's probably a) because it's so obvious that they are bored with it now and b) Torres tone is so obnoxious and plausibly motivated by personal animosity. But neither of those are good reason to reject the objection!
First, longtermism is not committed to total utilitarianism.
Second, population ethics is notoriously difficult, and all views have extremely counterintuitive implications. To assess the plausibility of total utilitarianism—to which longtermism is not committed—, you need to do the hard work of engaging with the relevant literature and arguments. Epithets like "genocidal" and "white supremacist" are not a good substitute for that engagement. [EDIT: I hope it was clear that by "you", I didn't mean "you, Dr Mathers".]
If you think you have valid objections to ... (read more)