I happen to think that relative utility is very clustered at the tails, whereas expected value is more spread out.. This comes from intuitions from the startup world.
However, it's important to note that I also have developed a motivation system that allows me to not find this discouraging! Once I started thinking of opportunities for doing good in expected value terms, and concrete examples of my contributions in absolute rather than relative terms, neither of these facts was upsetting or discouraging.
Some relevant articles:
But if it took on average 50 000 events for one such a key introduction to happen, then we might as well give up on having events. Or find a better way to do it. Otherwise we are just wasting everyone's time.
But all the other events were impactful, just not compared to those one or two events. The goal of having all the events is to hopefully be one of the 1/50,000 that has ridiculous outsized impact - It's high expected value even if comparatively all the other events have low impact. And again, that's comparatively. Compared to say, most other events, an event on AI safety is ridiculously high impact.
It can't take more that ~50 events for every AI Safety researcher to get to know each other.
This is true, much of the networking impact of events is frontloaded.
Nope, 1/50,000 seems like a realistic ratio for very high impact events to normal impact events.
Would you say that events are low impact?
I think most events will be comparatively low impact compared to the highest impact events. Let's say you have 100,000 AI safety events. I think most of them will be comparatively low impact, but one in particular ends up creating the seed of a key idea in AI safety, another ends up introducing a key pair of researchers that go on to do great things together.
Now, if I want to pay those two highest impact events their relative money related to all the other events, I have a few options:
1. Pay all of the events based on their expected impact prior to the events, so the money evens out.
2. Pay a very small amount of money to the other events, so I can afford to pay the two events that had many orders of magnitude higher impact.
3. Only buy a small fraction of the impact of the very high impact events, so I have money left over to pay the small events and can reward them all on impact equally.
Since there will limited amount of money, what is your motivation for giving the low impact projects anything at all?
I'm not sure. The vibe I got from the original post was that it would be good to have small rewards for small impact projects?
I think the high impact projects are often very risky, and will most likely have low impact. Perhaps it makes sense to compensate people for taking the hit for society so that 1/1,000,000 of the people who start such projects can have high impact?
For an impact purchase the amount of money is decided based on how good impact of the project was
I'm curious about how exactly this would work. My prior is that impact is clustered at the tails.
This means that there will frequently be small impact projects, and very occasionally be large impact projects - My guess is that if you want to be able to incentivize the frequent small impact projects at all, you won't be able to afford the large impact projects, because they are many magnitudes of impact larger. You could just purchase part of their impact, but in practice this means that there's a cap on how much you can receive from impact purchase.
Maybe a cap is fine, and you know that all you're ever get from an impact purchase is for instance $50,000, and the prestige comes with what % of impact they bought at that price.
Perhaps Dereke Bruce had the right of it here:
"In order to keep a true perspective of one's importance, everyone should have a dog that will worship him and a cat that will ignore him."
I propose that the best thing we can do for the long term future is to create positive flow-through effects now. Specifically, if we increase people's overall sense of well-being and altruistic tendencies, this will lead to more altruistic policies and organizations, which will lead to a better future.
Therefore, I propose a new top EA cause for 2020: Distributing Puppies
You might be interested in this same question that was asked last June:
Something else in the vein of "things EAs and rationalists should be paying attention to in regards to Corona."
There's a common failure mode in large human systems where one outlier causes us to create a rule that is a worse equilibrium. In the PersonalMBA, Josh Kaufman talks about someone taking advantage of a "buy any book you want" rule that a company has - so you make it so that you can no longer get any free books.
This same pattern has happened before in the US, after 9-11 - We created a whole bunch of security theater, that caused more suffering for everyone, and gave government way more power and way less oversight than is safe, because we over-reacted to prevent one bad event, not considering the counterfactual invisible things we would be losing.
This will happen again with Corona, things will be put in place that are maybe good at preventing pandemics (or worse, making people think they're safe from pandemics), but create a million trivial conveniences every day that add up to more strife than they're worth.
These types of rules are very hard to repeal after the fact because of absence blindness - someone needs to do the work of calculating the cost/benefit ratio BEFORE they get implemented, then build a convincing enough narrative to what seems obvious/common sense measures given the climate/devastation.