All of ElizabethE's Comments + Replies

ElizabethE's Shortform

I'm having thoughts about bottlenecks on improving institutional decision-making based on some of the conversations I had yesterday at EAG: Reconnect. Due to my experience, I'm mostly oriented towards governmental institutions, and one of the barriers there is the attitudes of constituents/voters.

To oversimplify, there are 2 dimensions to this: incorrect beliefs about what effects policies will have on the world, and low empathy/narrow circles of moral concern.

As an example of what I mean, take immigration policy. Voters incorrectly believe that higher imm... (read more)

A classic post [] from Gwern on the subject:
AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

Able to do it? I'm not sure. It seems likely that my persuasive skills played a role, but the more significant factor is that I did it more than the average Rep because most Reps never tried.

I think it would help me answer if I gave a little more context. I only succeeded at this three times, by my estimation. We go through 800-1000 bills a year, to give you a sense of scale. I was very wary of attempting to do it and failing, because my model is that each failure makes the body as a whole slightly less likely to listen to you in the future. So the only ti... (read more)

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

Sure. I'm mostly thinking of things like data analyst positions at think tanks and research centers that help steer policy recommendations for governments both local and abroad.

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

Yeah, I think it's the two things you say (technology leading to filter bubbles + toxoplasma). You mention it indirectly, but I also want to explicitly point at the role, prior to the internet, that mass media had in shaping a common narrative that people could refer back to.

At the risk of substituting an elegant model for a more complicated multi-causal one, here are a few other forces that come to mind as well...

  • The World Wars and the Cold War gave the US powerful, external enemies, which does wonders for internal unity.

  • I think the 2-party system a

... (read more)
I found Astral Codex Ten's post Book Review: Why We're Polarized [] quite interesting in relation to points like these. Perhaps the most useful single part of that article, in this context, is the graph that follows this sentence "The book itself doesn’t go international, but Klein did later follow up with a Vox article, whose highlight is this graph:" (I can't remember how to insert images in a Forum comment, so people will have to follow the link and search for that text to see the graph.)
(If any future readers stumble upon this comment thread, they may be interested in EA Forum posts with the Political Polarization [] tag (I've now tagged this post too), and/or these sources [] from beyond the EA Forum.)
I'd also guess that this is true (though I haven't really looked into it myself). Here's a tidbit of what might be weak evidence for this view, and is at least interesting and seems relevant, from the post Deliberation May Improve Decision-Making [] : And I think "deliberative quality" there refers to: (Btw, thanks for doing this AMA, I found it very interesting!)
Thanks! Makes sense. (To be clear, I wasn't saying that tight control by a single political faction would be a good thing... only that it would fix the polarization problem.) I think the Civil War era was probably more polarized than today, but that's not very comforting given what happened then. Ideally we'd be able to point to an era with greater-than-today polarization that didn't lead to mass bloodshed. I don't know much about the Jefferson-Adams thing but I'd be surprised if it was as bad as today.
AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative
  • you'd get voted out of office

No, not this one. I don't think there was anything I wanted to say that would have been harmful enough to turn the Eye of Sauron(*) upon me.

  • there are costs imposed directly on you/people-close-to-you (i.e. stress)

Nah, any stress would have been a tertiary effect from...

  • you'd lose support from your political allies that you need to accomplish anything

This was the big one. I was already a black sheep when I got voted into office; I had negative amounts of political capital within my party. I had to focus a ton of... (read more)

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

A (possibly wrong) sense I have about being an elected politician is that because you are beholden to your constituents, it may be difficult to act independently and support the policies that have the best consequences for society (as these may conflict with either your constituent's perceptions or immediate interests). Did you find that this was true, or were there examples of this?

Yes, 100%. This is one of the areas where believing EA things directly conflicts with holding elected office: you value all lives and experiences equally, but you're suppose... (read more)

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

Do you think being an EA/believing EA things...represents any disadvantage (or advantage) in running for office?

One advantage I can think of is that you have a source of information other than the political party, and that source of information is filtering based on evidence. Therefore, you're more likely to hear about things like relative efficacy of canvassing vs. lawn signs, and spend your resources wisely, rather than the 'kitchen sink' approach of just doing what everyone else does during a campaign.

As for disadvantages, well. I think some EAs hand... (read more)

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

Looking back, there are four projects I'm the most proud of:

Three bills I played "sidekick" on... 1) A 911 immunity bill, which confers legal immunity from drug possession charges to both the person who calls 911 in the event of a medical emergency and the victim of the emergency. 2) A bill expanding Narcan access to third parties. (Narcan is a medication which can be administered by a layperson and which reverses the effects of an opiate overdose.) 3) A bill that legalized syringe service programs, aka needle exchanges.

A bill I put forward to shift the Ov... (read more)

going up against consensus in a deliberative body, be that my Committee or the General Assembly, and convincing my fellow Representatives to reverse course and vote the opposite way they had intended.

It's great to hear that this is not only possible but possible for one person to achieve multiple times in two years. Do you think you were able to do it significantly more often than the average representative? (e.g. because the average representative cares more about conforming to the pack than you and so tries to do this less often?)

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

(Question 2)

(Most of this is from the frame of trying to reduce expected opposition.)

The potential success of most example policies or policy areas I can think of are going to be highly dependent on region and political milieu; for instance, animal welfare measures have a good chance in Berkeley, California but not Ames, Iowa.

Potential, non-region-specific reforms would be ones that aren't (yet) strongly red or blue coded, such as approval voting, which I'm moderately bullish on.

One way to reduce expected opposition is to focus on locations under single-pa... (read more)

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

(Question 1) 2019 was entirely composed of taking a break as much as possible from political things. I was pretty burnt out and needed to recover. I worked as a nanny, which is something I really enjoyed for its own sake even though I didn't have an intention of continuing with it long term.

Early in 2020 I left my nanny position and started doing a fair amount of exploratory work around land use reform, registering an org with the Secretary of State, having a lot of conversations with YIMBY types in my area, etc. Some time around June, I had a very self-re... (read more)

Thanks for this excellent AMA! Could you elaborate on the "policy-adjacent but non-public-facing roles" in data science that you think are impactful?
AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

I'll note first that my experience does not make me particularly qualified to answer this, especially since I've consciously spent much less time thinking about politics in the past 2 years.

I expect the Biden administration to be much better than the Trump administration on most matters, although I still expect to hear about decisions I disagree with vehemently, probably on a monthly or bi-monthly basis rather than a daily basis. I assign low probability to major changes in institutions (<5%) and I think there's a slightly better though still low chance of improvements on political polarization (<25%).

Mostly, I expect things to continue to be frustratingly stupid.

AMA: Elizabeth Edwards-Appell, former State Representative

There's no simple yes or no answer. A) Competence is multi-dimensional, and B) there are some types of competencies that would make me discourage someone from running for office and doing other things instead.

There are also several other factors besides competency that go into whether someone is a good fit for running for office, among them things like personal history, location, temperament, and the badness of whomever is currently occupying the office in question.

I think some EAs should pursue local political office, and who those EAs are should be deter... (read more)

Correlations Between Cause Prioritization and the Big Five Personality Traits

Hi David,

I'm happy that this comment is the highest upvoted since it provides important context. Thank you for writing it. I've directed first-time readers' attention to your comment in an edit at the top of my post.

Thanks again for writing it! It's nudged me to go back and look at our data again when I have some time. I expect that we'll probably replicate at least some of your broad findings.
Correlations Between Cause Prioritization and the Big Five Personality Traits

I was trained not to create dichotomous variables unless advanced statistics tell us that the data is, indeed, dichotomous.

I had not heard this before your comment, probably due to being early in my coursework, but it makes perfect sense to me. I will remember this guideline in the future. Thank you for the feedback.

No problem, best of luck! :)