All of FJehn's Comments + Replies

Betting on the best case: higher end warming is underrepresented in research

Thank you for your feedback!

It is true that our phrasing around Sherwood et al (2020) can sound a bit misleading. However, this was not in bad faith. We did not intentionally leave out the decreased tail risks. 

Overall, your criticism mainly seems to be the fact that current estimates of climate sensitivity have a smaller range that the one we used. This is true. It does not change the point of our paper though. While the range decreased, the mean basically stayed the same and if you look at our figures, this still means that there is likely to few re... (read more)

2John G. Halstead2hHello, thanks for your response. On the Sherwood et al thing, another issue is that I don't understand why you would use the Weitzman estimate of ECS when you have already mentioned the Sherwood et al (2020) estimate. The Sherwood et al (2020) estimate is superior, and that is clear from reading their paper. The IPCC also now accepts that it is superior. So, I don't understand why you would mention "the most recent estimate" and then use one from 6 years ago instead. "Overall, your criticism mainly seems to be the fact that current estimates of climate sensitivity have a smaller range that the one we used." That is not my criticism. My criticism is that emissions look set to lower and the right tail of climate sensitivity has thinned which makes a clear material difference to your conclusions. On your last point: this does make it look like the central claim of your paper is wrong. I am going to paste some charts from the last impacts report below on some key climate impact areas to illustrate: Sea level Food yields Floods Species loss Fire frequency Ocean net primary production Precipitation Maximum fish catch potential (A1B is between RCP6 and RCP8.5) On drought they say "Climate change is likely to increase the frequency of meteorological droughts (less rainfall) and agricultural droughts (less soil moisture) in presently dry regions by the end of the 21st century under the RCP8.5 scenario (medium confidence). {WGI AR5 Chapter 12} This is likely to increase the frequency of short hydrological droughts (less surface water and groundwater) in these regions (medium evidence, medium agreement)." Ocean acidification
How to best address Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)?

One thing I find very useful but I haven't seen recommended anywhere is simply adding a second mouse to your computer. It allows you to easily switch between both hands. This gives your main hand some rest, but doesn't overuse the other one.

Betting on the best case: higher end warming is underrepresented in research

Unfortunately, I cannot really provide conclusive answers here, as our paper only looked into the amount of research overall, but not into specific topics. Getting an overview of this is basically a major research project itself. However, a student of mine looked into this a bit and her preliminary results seem like it is more of a general problem and not specific to certain fields of research.

3Madhav Malhotra4moIt's good to be aware of where you're not an expert. Thank you for being honest!
Betting on the best case: higher end warming is underrepresented in research
  1. We settled on Wagner and Weitzman because it is well known and also because they were kind enough to provide us with their data and code. It is indeed true that other probability curves might paint a more optimistic picture. However, the differences are so large that I would be surprised if it would change the conclusion of our paper.
  2. We looked at the complete IPCC reports, because we wanted to understand the overall focus of policy relevant research. But it is indeed true that the research gap differs between the working groups and the research gap is larger when it comes to the impact focused reports.
Betting on the best case: higher end warming is underrepresented in research

I would say that there are several promising research directions when it comes to higher end warming:

  1. Exploring in detail what the effects of higher end warming even are. E.g. what are the possible effects on crops, livestock, habitable zones for humans, but also the economy?
  2. How could we cope with such possibly massive changes? Are there precedents in history where we had to undergo such massive changes and did it work?
  3. Taking a deeper look into geo-engineering, especially the potentially very effective, but more out there approaches like e.g. Project Vesta

A... (read more)

2Mauricio4moThanks! Good points.
1Madhav Malhotra4moWould you have more specific hypotheses? :-) Ex: Within geoengineering, carbon capture is one possibility. Do you know of neglected areas regarding other types of geoengineering? Or within exploring the effects of higher end warming, which crops/livestock do we need more research in? Which industries in the economy? Thank you for any clarifications!
FJehn's Shortform

Knowledge is fractal. Every time I wander into a new field of knowledge I am fascinated that it has its own tales, language, heroes, secrets and traditions. However, it does not stop at this scale. Every field had its own subfields and again we find exactly the same thing. You could spend your whole life trying to understand a field and you would still be completely surprised by what you might find in its subfields if you venture out. And again you would just find more subfields of the subfield you started exploring. It seemingly never ends. I like this p... (read more)

Linch's Shortform

This resonated with me a lot. Unfortunately, I do not have a quick fix. However, what seems to help at least a bit for me is seperating planning for a day and doing the work. Every workday the last thing I do (or try to do) is look at my calendar and to do lists and figure out what I should be doing the next day. By doing this I think I am better at assessing at what is important, as I do not have to do it at that moment. I only have to think of what my future self will be capable of doing. When the next day comes and future self turns into present self I ... (read more)

4MichaelA7moYeah, this seems relevant. There's also a Forum tag for posts relevant to progress studies [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/progress-studies].
9Habryka7moWorried about goodharting effects. I expect authors and others would start using number of views as a quality signal and start optimizing towards more views. But I, having access to that signal, am confident it really very much isn't a good quality signal, and if LW and the EA Forum had a gradient that would incrementally just push towards more of the posts that get a lot of views, this would really destroy a lot of the value of a lot of posts.
Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time

That's a valid point. Here's the controversy graph if you exclude all posts that don't have any downvotes:

Overall trend seems to be similar though. And it makes me even more interested what happened in 2018 that sparked so much controversy^^

Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time

You can ask the API for "viewCount". However, it seems to always return "null". Not sure if this means that you aren't allowed to query for this or if the problem is just me not getting the queries right^^

3Habryka7moYep, it's an admin-only property. Sorry for the confusion!
Getting a feel for changes of karma and controversy in the EA Forum over time

That seems to have been the case. Sorry about that. Does it work now?

2Pablo8moYes, thanks!
Making a collection of freely available mental health resources
  • Name: Replacing Guilt Series
  • What is it? 
    • This is a collection of blog articles by Nate Soares that tackle the problem of using guilt as your main motivator. 
  • Why do you like it? 
    • Motivating yourself can be hard and the default motivator is often guilt and the feeling that you “should” be doing something. These posts try to show that guilt is not a good (and especially not a sustainable) way to motivate yourself and explore more long term approaches to keep your motivation running.  
  • Where to start? 
    • Simply start with the first entr
... (read more)
Making a collection of freely available mental health resources
  • Name: Woebot
  • What is it? 
    • Woebot is a chatbot that does cognitive behavioural therapy with you. 
  • Why do you like it? 
    • While a chatbot is obviously not the same as having a therapist, it is easily available and for some cognitive behavioural therapy exercises you basically only need someone to talk you through it. Woebot is more on the cute side, which I guess could be annoying for some people, but I think it sets a friendly atmosphere. It also helps you to track your mood and has a vast collection of exercises to help with sleep problems, stress
... (read more)
Making a collection of freely available mental health resources
  • Name: The Happiness Lab 
  • What is it? 
    • The Happiness Lab is a podcast by Dr. Laurie Santos which discusses new scientific insights about happiness research.
  • Why do you like it? 
    • I enjoy listening to this podcast because it is basically a self-help guide, but deeply grounded in scientific research. Also, it has a cheerful tone to it, which makes me more likely to tune in. I think it has helped me to build a more optimistic view on life.
  • Where to start? 
    • In march 2020 The Happiness Lab started a mini series  to help with the mental problems
... (read more)
In diversity lies epistemic strength

It seems like my post created more of a buzz than I anticipated. Many people seem to get the message from it: “we should only care about demographic diversity and nothing else”. I’m sorry that my wording was apparently so vague, as this is not really what I meant. 

To create a fruitful discussion you not only need diversity, but also at least some value alignment and some knowledge about the topic that is being discussed. Given that some value alignment and some knowledge about the topic are present, diversity of perspectives is a powerful way to make ... (read more)

In diversity lies epistemic strength

You seem to assume that diversity of perspectives is easy to measure, because you only link it to the professional background of a person. However, I would argue that while profession is important, so is how I grew up and what experiences I had in my life due to sex, gender, race and other markers. Those things you cannot easily measure directly, but they improve discussions, as they lead to more assumptions being challenged. 

Sure, but in the above post you claim that demographic diversity is the best way to measure diversity of perspectives, which is a much stronger claim. I am not saying demographic diversity is completely irrelevant, I am just saying that it seems far from the best measure of cognitive diversity that we have.

In diversity lies epistemic strength

Simply asking someone about their beliefs works if you have something conrete to ask for and know that kind of perspective you want to include. However, how would you know which questions to ask for? Aren't the questions you are asking not based on your own perspectives? What this post aims for is highlighting the importance of perspectives you cannot easily predict. For example, if you would you are doing a Hamming Circle you might have a hunch beforehand which people you would like to include, but during the circle the best feedback and help comes from a... (read more)

In diversity lies epistemic strength

That is true. To participate in any discussion you must know something about the topic at hand. Still, I don't think this is at odds with my post. To stay with your example in philosophy, my post does not intend to argue that basically everyone in the world should partake in philosophy discussions, but merely that the philosophy community should make sure that important perspectives are not overlooked, by a diverse set of people. Your idea of having to have a claim of expertise to meaningfully contribute to a discussion is also highlighted in "Why trust Sc... (read more)

In diversity lies epistemic strength

Thank you for your comment. Could you tell me which part of my post led you to the conclusion that we should leave out perspectives of privileged people? I saw my argument as "include as many perspectives as you can to challenge more assumptions". Or are you making a general comment on your view of feminism?

1casebash10moIt was a general comment how this lens is often applied in practise, even though this isn't the only possible way for it to be applied.
My recommendations for RSI treatment

Did you have time to look at the evidence? If so, what is your impression? 

The funnel or the individual: Two approaches to understanding EA engagement

Thank you for this article. I really like the idea of your model and how you highlight how it compares to the funnel model. I think it is a good idea for the EA community to focus more on the "middle" and how to keep people motivated who are not the most highly engaged. This is especially important as it is unclear what causes might be the most important in the future. Right now highest engagement is only really possible for people who are working in the currently most valued causes areas. However, those might change in the future and we might need people with different skills and perspectives and retaining those people is only possible if we offer everyone ways of participation and growth. 

What are some potential coordination failures in our community?

That is indeed a problem, I also saw signs of this several times. Thank you for that comment. At least for initial funding lotteries might be a good idea, as they would allow much quicker grant applications and would remove bias. I recently asked a questions about this here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/XtxnLERQfampY7dhh/lotteries-for-everything

While I do think that lotteries have some flaws, they still seem pretty good to me when it comes to initial funding. 

An aspect of the funding problem is that money allocation is bad everywhere. (On a larger scale, the market mostly woks, but if you get into the details of being a human wanting to trade your time for money, most things around job applications and grant applications, is more or less terrible.) If we design a system that don't suck, over time EA will attract people who are here for the money not for the mission. 

A solution should have the feature:
1) It don't suck if you are EA aligned
2) If you are not EA aligned it should not be easier to get money fro... (read more)

Lotteries for everything?

That's a great resource. Thanks!

Lotteries for everything?

I think the problem that it is really, really hard to come up with better systems. As mentioned above research grants have quite a few problems. Those problems are founded in human bias and a lack of knowledge. I cannot really evaluate the value of a grant if I have not seen all the other grants and I might be influenced by my biases so give it to a scientist I like or trust. In addition, if there would be an easy and obvious system people would probably already have implemented it.  

So, lotteries solve this problem. There might be better approaches, ... (read more)

1FCCC1yThere are mechanisms that aggregate distributed knowledge, such as free-market pricing. Not with 100 percent accuracy, but that's not the right question. We want to know whether it can be done better than chance. Someone can lack knowledge and be biased and still reliably do better than random (try playing chess against a computer that plays uniformly random moves). Wouldn't the "efficient-policy hypothesis" imply that lotteries are worse than the existing systems? I don't think you really believe this. Are our systems better than most hypothetical systems? Usually, but this doesn't mean there's no low-hanging fruit. There's plenty of good policy ideas that are well-known and haven't been implemented, such as 100 percent land-value taxes. Let's take a subset of the research funding problem: How can we decide what to fund for research about prisoner rehabilitation? I've suggested a mechanism that would do this [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/yM24tvESo4Y49YGTy/how-to-fix-private-prisons-and-immigration] .
Lotteries for everything?

Its true that this is probably most suited to a funding scheme aimed at early researchers due to the limitations mentioned by you. However, I might think that the grant success might go up if you use a model were you sort out all bad research first, because your 20 % is probably relate to the overall number of applications. Or maybe you could give people more tickets in the lottery if they have proven they can produce good research. However, this might introduce new biases.  

In addition, it might still be a good approach for intermediate researchers b... (read more)

The end of the Bronze Age as an example of a sudden collapse of civilization

Thank you for your notes. Really quite interesting. I was not aware that the dating of the Hekla eruption was so disputed. The reason I focussed on it was that droughts seemed to me like they played a crucial role. The research by Drake et al. argued (relying on isotope data) that this drought was caused by a cooling of the sea, which in turn needs an explanation. And the most likely explanation seemed to be a volcanic eruption.

But I agree that it is overall very hard to understand the timing of all those events. Especially as it played out differently in ... (read more)

2Max_Daniel1yThanks! Interesting to hear what kind of evidence we have that points toward droughts and volcanic eruptions. Note that overall I'm very uncertain how much to discount the Hekla eruption as a key cause based on the uncertain dating. This is literally just based on one sentence in a Wikipedia article, and I didn't consult any of the references. It certainly seems conceivable to me that we could have sufficiently many and strong other sources of evidence that point to a volcanic eruption that we overall should have very high credence that the eruption of Hekla or another volcano was a crucial cause.
The end of the Bronze Age as an example of a sudden collapse of civilization

Thank you. Yeah when I wrote this down I was a bit shocked myself on how many bad things can happen at the same time. 

You're are right that the argument about the comparison with the other eruption is a bit flaky. The problem is that this is so long ago and most written sources were destroyed. So, we have to rely on climatic reconstructions and those are hard. Therefore, I found accounts that both eruptions were of similar strength, but also some which argued that one of them was stronger than the other.  However, the earlier eruption happened sm... (read more)

The end of the Bronze Age as an example of a sudden collapse of civilization

I could not really fit this neatly in the text, but the destruction of Ugarit was the scene for a grim, yet fascinating bit of history that I do not want to withhold from you. During some archeological excavations clay tablets were found with the following text:

“My father, behold, the enemy’s ships came (here); my cities(?) were burned, and they did evil things in my country. Does not my father know that all my troops and chariots(?) are in the Land of Hatti, and all my ships are in the Land of Lukka?… Thus, the country is abandoned to itself. May my fathe... (read more)

Which properties does the EA movement share with deep-time organisations?

Thank you for your comment. I am not aware of any organizations that supply those goods. At least in an EA like fashion. If you you make your net a bit wider you might find things that are at least somewhat related. But I agree it would be helpful if there would be somebody else also doing this, as it would bring in new perspectives that EA might miss.

Could you elaborate a bit on your last point a bit? Do you mean with your comment that it would be ok (or even good) if EA ceases to exist if the reason would be that EA ideas were widespread?

2MaxRa1yThat's what I thought. For example, we don't have democratic movements in a lot of countries because democratic values are already widespread. That's not a failure of the democracy movement, but a sign that it succeeded.
Keeping everyone motivated: a case for effective careers outside of the highest impact EA organizations

Thank you for the feedback.

When I was talking about academia I wasn't imaging a student that is almost sure to steer a field, but more of a "regular" PhD student. For example I will be finishing a PhD in environmental science soonish. I think I am doing a good job there, but when I see who is applying for EA orgs it seems somewhat unlikely that I will get into one of the main EA orgs anytime soon (or ever^^). Therefore, trying to infuse EA ideas into the general discourse in my field might be one of the few things I can do while in academia.... (read more)

Keeping everyone motivated: a case for effective careers outside of the highest impact EA organizations

Hard question, as it depends on a lot of parameters. For example:

  • What is the marginal value of the person getting into EA org in comparison to the person who would get the job otherwise? I can imagine it is not that big in some cases, as quite a lot of very professional people apply to EA orgs.
  • What is the marginal value of the person leading the group in the comparison to the person who would do it otherwise. Here I would argue that it might be much bigger, as I have the impression that local groups rise and fall with the person(s) who organize them. Often
... (read more)
2Risto_Uuk2yThis is slightly relevant, in a recent 80,000 Hours' blog post [https://80000hours.org/2019/08/how-replaceable-are-top-candidates-in-large-hiring-rounds/] they suggest the following for people applying for EA jobs: