evelynciara

I study computer science at Cornell University. I am a public interest technologist interested in using CS to address pressing social problems. (she/her)

"It is important to draw wisdom from many different places. If we take it from only one place, it becomes rigid and stale. Understanding others, the other elements, and the other nations will help you become whole." —Uncle Iroh

Sequences

EA Survey 2018 Series
EA Survey 2019 Series

Comments

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

I don't think the former is true either (with respect to national politics). 

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Is "social justice" ideology really the dominant ideology in our society now? My impression is that it's only taken seriously among young, highly-educated people.

Concerns with ACE's Recent Behavior

Nitpick: I really wish SJ-aligned people would clarify what they mean by "capitalism" in these contexts.

evelynciara's Shortform

On the difference between x-risks and x-risk factors

I suspect there isn't much of a meaningful difference between "x-risks" and "x-risk factors," for two reasons:

  1. We can treat them the same in terms of probability theory. For example, if  is an "x-risk" and  is a "risk factor" for , then . But we can also say that , because both statements are equivalent to . We can similarly speak of the total probability of an x-risk factor because of the law of total probability (e.g. ) like we can with an x-risk.
  2. Concretely, something can be both an x-risk and a risk factor. Climate change is often cited as an example: it could cause an existential catastrophe directly by making all of Earth unable to support complex societies, or indirectly by increasing humanity's vulnerability to other risks. Pandemics might also be an example, as a pandemic could either directly cause the collapse of civilization or expose humanity to other risks.

I think the difference is that x-risks are events that directly cause an existential catastrophe, such as extinction or civilizational collapse, whereas x-risk factors are events that don't have a direct causal pathway to x-catastrophe. But it's possible that pretty much all x-risks are risk factors and vice versa. For example, suppose that humanity is already decimated by a global pandemic, and then a war causes the permanent collapse of civilization. We usually think of pandemics as risks and wars as risk factors, but in this scenario, the war is the x-risk because it happened last... right?

One way to think about x-risks that avoids this problem is that x-risks can have both direct and indirect causal pathways to x-catastrophe.

Intelligence and neuroscience

If we deprecate these tags, can we keep them as wiki-only tags provided they still add value?

evelynciara's Shortform

"Quality-adjusted civilization years"

We should be able to compare global catastrophic risks in terms of the amount of time they make global civilization significantly worse and how much worse it gets. We might call this measure "quality-adjusted civilization years" (QACYs), or the quality-adjusted amount of civilization time that is lost.

For example, let's say that the COVID-19 pandemic reduces the quality of civilization by 50% for 2 years. Then the QACY burden of COVID-19 is  QACYs.

Another example: suppose climate change will reduce the quality of civilization by 80% for 200 years, and then things will return to normal. Then the total QACY burden of climate change over the long term will be  QACYs.

In the limit, an existential catastrophe would have a near-infinite QACY burden.

Voting reform seems overrated

Coming back to this thread now having thought about it more. Speaking from my personal experience as an American citizen, I think the spoiler effect lowers voters' confidence in the electoral system, especially that of idealistic, young voters.

I was a Bernie supporter in 2016. I wasn't excited about Hillary being the Democratic nominee, but because I understood the incentive structure created by FPTP, I chose to support Hillary in the general election because I really hated Trump. But, there was a substantial number of Bernie supporters who defected from the Democratic base after Bernie lost. Mainstream Democrats seemed to be shaming them into voting for Hillary, on the grounds that:

  • if you vote for Jill Stein (the Green candidate) instead of Hillary, Trump will win.
  • if you vote for Gary Johnson (the Libertarian candidate) instead of Hillary, Trump will win.
  • if you write in Bernie, Trump will win.
  • if you don't vote, Trump will win.

This has been called vote-shaming, and I think it makes American political culture a lot more toxic because it pits ideologically similar people (like center-left and far-left progressives) against each other. Many people don't vote at all, both because of voter suppression, and because they don't feel represented by the major candidates. Eligible non-voters in 2016 were also more likely to be younger, less educated, less affluent, and non-White (source), which suggests that the system is not representing these groups as well as it could be. It is a problem that citizens of the world's oldest continuously running democracy feel disempowered - it means that the government is not as responsive to citizens' interests as it should be. Vote-shaming puts the blame on individuals for not voting, instead of the system for causing vote-splitting.

Just so you all don't think that this only happens on the left: I have a friend who didn't really like either major candidate. He leans conservative and strikes me as someone who might have preferred the Libertarian Party or Bernie Sanders. Despite not liking Trump that much, he voted for Trump in the 2016 general, because he thought Hillary was worse.

Some statistics:

  • In 2016, just 54.8% of the voting-age population (VAP) voted in the presidential election; 59.2% of the voting-eligible population (VEP) voted.
  • In 2020, this increased to 62% of the VAP and 66.7% of the VEP. (source)

I think that increasing voter turnout would make the government more responsive to citizens' interests, and I think changing the voting system we use would help with this because it would help citizens feel more empowered to vote.

Note: I'm not saying that vote-splitting, or even problems with the voting mechanism in general, is the only issue with the U.S. electoral system. I think there could be other problems introduced by a new voting system such as approval voting - practical problems that degrade the political system similarly to the way that I think vote-splitting does (since we know that no voting system is theoretically perfect).

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