emmabluemke

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Longtermist EA needs more Phase 2 work

Great post, Owen and great comment, John!

I'm new to the community, and have noticed these things as well, particularly in contrast to my engineering background which tends to be very action-oriented. I must say I've been very impressed/surprised by the sheer amount of deliberation and rumination around any particular idea or issue, and feel that it's a bit of a treasure trove for people who are more execution-oriented. Hiring more people who are execution/action-oriented would be a great way to spur more phase 2 work which would be complimentary to the immense efforts done already in phase 1.  This can cause some natural tension and it's important to make sure that people understand & respect the need for both "analysers" and "executors" on a team. 

FWIW, (I might be wrong here) but it seems a lot of longtermism work is kept in phase 1 due to being very risk-averse, which is understandable, however I think there are a lot of examples from different fields of engineering & sciences (medical technology, bioengineering, bridges, planes, cars, skyscrapers, nuclear engineering, waste & water management, chemistry involving the dangerous materials, inventing new types of surgery, etc.) that operate in a risk-averse manner while still being very action-oriented, even if you can't quite 'experiment' with the thing because the consequence is catastrophic. And sometimes the most appropriate action doesn't involve doing engineering but instead (1) installing preventative and regulatory measures,  or (2) developing protected titles and qualifications (see Canadian engineers protected title, hippocratic oath). We can look at those disciplines for models of how to be action oriented in a risk-averse way, there will probably be many important lessons learned from their journeys over the past century. Although there may be no perfect analogy, I'm sure there are useful bits and pieces from each field.

How to run a high-energy reading group

I agree, this is a common format I've experienced in academia. 

For what it's worth, I've found that it sometimes evolves into unnecessary criticisms of the paper, and sometimes the criticisms aren't really correct (i.e. the author isn't there to defend the method and perhaps the presenter hasn't quite understood the paper or reasoning themselves). 

I've started to believe that this reading group format might actually contribute to why a lot of PhD students feel so frozen/overwhelmed when writing papers of their own... they watch perfectly fine papers get ritually dunked on once a week, and then those criticisms get embedded into their inner critic and sabotage their writing progress! :-)

The longtermist AI governance landscape: a basic overview

Well done, Sam, this is really helpful - thank you!