G Gordon Worley III

Director of Research at PAISRI

G Gordon Worley III's Comments

Ubiquitous Far-Ultraviolet Light Could Control the Spread of Covid-19 and Other Pandemics

You don't mention this, and maybe there is no research on it, but do we expect there to be much opportunity for resistance effects, similar to what we see with antibiotics and the evolution of resistant strains?

For example, would the deployment of large amounts of far-ultraviolet lamps result in selection pressures on microbes to become resistant to them? I think it's not clear, since for example we don't seem to see lots of heat resistant microbes evolving (outside of places like thermal vents) even though we regularly use high heat to kill them.

And even if it did would it be worth the tradeoff? For example, I think even if we knew about the possibility of antibiotic resistance bacteria when penicillin was created, we would still have used penicillin extensively because it was able to cure so many diseases and increase human welfare, although we might have done it with greater care about protocols and their enforcement, so with hindsight maybe we would do something similar here with far-ultraviolet light if we used it.

Is nanotechnology (such as APM) important for EAs' to work on?

There are at least two things that go by the term "nanotechnology" but are really different things: atomically precise manufacturing (e.g. Drexler, grey goo, and other stuff that is what originally went by the term "nanotech") and nanoscale materials science (e.g. advanced modern materials science that uses various techniques, but not APM, to create materials with properties based on controlling nanoscale features of the material). Which did you have in mind? I think that will affect the kinds of answers people will give.

Should effective altruists give money to local beggars?

My impression is that many of these beggars are earning enough to survive, albeit in poverty, so your marginal dollar is probably more effective elsewhere given most people are not making the choice to give to them or not based on EA principles and others will continue to support them. If you consider local homelessness a top priority, my guess is that other interventions than small direct giving would be more effective, though I have not looked into it.

Option Value, an Introductory Guide

Thanks for this. I didn't know that option value is a thing in the literature as opposed to just a common pattern in reasoning. Having handles for things is often useful, and I really appreciate it when people help bring those things in explicitly to EA, since like the rationality community I find it has a tendency to reinvent terms for existing things because of unfamiliarity with wider literature (which is not a complaint, since humans have figured out so much stuff, it's sometimes hard to know that someone else already worked out the same ideas, especially if they did so in a different domain from the one where you are working).

Chloramphenicol as intervention in heart attacks

Sure, this was just me taking a guess because I needed a figure to work out the numbers. I expect better analysis, if this is of interest to someone, might produce a different figure and different conclusion about cost effectiveness.

Using Charity Performance Metrics as an Excuse Not to Give

A quick scan of the article makes me want to say "more evidence needed before we can conclude much": they ran two studies, one on 50 Stanford students, one on 400 Mechanical Turkers. Neither seems to provide very strong evidence to me about how people might make giving decisions in the real world since the study conditions feel pretty far to me to what actual giving decision feel like. Here's the setup of the two studies from the paper:

Study 1 involves data from 50 Stanford University undergraduate students in April 2014 who made a series of binary decisions between money for charities and/or money for themselves. In addition to receiving a $20 completion fee, participants knew that one of their decisions would be randomly selected to count for payment.14 The design and results for Study 1 are detailed below (and see Online Appendix B.1 for instructions and screenshots).
Three types of charities are involved in Study 1. The first charity type involves three Make-A-Wish Foundation state chapters that vary according to their program expense rates, or percentages of their budgets spent directly on their programs and services (i.e., not spent on overhead costs): the New Hampshire chapter (90%), the Rhode Island chapter (80%), and the Maine chapter (71%).15 The second charity type involves three Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools that vary according to college matriculation rates among their students who completed the eighth grade: Chicago (92%), Philadelphia (74%), and Denver (61%).16 The third charity type involves three Bay Area animal shelters that vary according to their live release rates: the San Francisco SPCA (97%), the Humane Society of Silicon Valley (82%), and the San Jose Animal Care and Services (66%).

And the second one:

Study 2 involves data from 400 Amazon Mechanical Turk workers in January 2018 who made five decisions about how much money to keep for themselves or to instead donate to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.32 In addition to receiving a $1 completion fee, participants knew that one of their decisions would be randomly selected to count for payment.33 Relative to Study 1, Study 2 allows for a test of excuse-driven responses to charity performance metrics on a larger sample and via an identification strategy that does not require a normalization procedure. The design and results for Study 2 are detailed below (and see Online Appendix B.4 for instructions and screenshots).
The Web of Prevention

I've noticed something similar around "security mindset": Eliezer and MIRI have used the phrase to talk about a specific version of it in relation to AI safety, but the term, as far as I know, originates with Bruce Schneier and computer security, although I can't recall MIRI publications mentioning that much, possibly because they didn't even realize that's where the term came from. Hard to know, a probably not very relevant other than to weirdos like us. ;-)

Thoughts on electoral reform

In the US, especially for federal elections and especially especially for election of the president, I expect voting reform to have low tractability because I believe it requires constitutional reform at the national and possibly the state level. Given how hard it is to pass amendments to the federal constitution and given that there are a lot of incentives to maintain the status quo, this seems like an uphill battle that can suck up money and generate no results.

Local election reform is probably much more tractable, especially at the municipal level, since the voting procedures are managed in ways that are more easily changed.

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