Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead

Victor and Cullenward - Making Climate Policy Work  is good.

On the science side, for an overview, I would recommend just reading the summary for policymakers or technical summary of the IPCC 2013 Physical science basis report. 

For long-termist/ex-risk takes the following are good

King et al Climate Change a Risk Assessment

Hansen et al, Climate Sensitivity, sea level and atmospheric CO2

Clark et al, Consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change

Climate change questions for Johannes Ackva and John Halstead


I agree that climate change is not neglected but I view that as a bit of a weak steer when deciding whether to work on it, for reasons I outline here. Neglectedness is one determinant of how cost-effective it is to work on a problem, but there are many others. Taking the example of AI safety - it is more neglected than climate change, but I have almost no idea how to make progress on this problem, whereas with climate change there is quite a clear path to making a difference. It also might be true that certain solutions within climate are less neglected than others, e.g. CCS and nuclear are neglected. 

I think to make cause prioritisation decisions when the stakes are high, we actually need to sit down and figure out directly which cause is more cost-effective to work on. 

Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

Hi Aaron, I appreciate this and understand the thought process behind the decision. I do generally agree that it is important to provide evidence for this kind of thing, but there were reasons not to do so in this case, which made it a bit unusual.

Insomnia with an EA lens: Bigger than malaria?

I have written up the instructions for CBT-i here for those interested - https://johnhalstead.org/index.php/2020/10/11/how-to-cure-your-insomnia/

Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

Simon Beard is providing the foreword for his forthcoming book, and Luke Kemp has provided a supporting quote for it.

Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

I'm pretty surprised and disappointed by this warning. I made 3 claims about ways that Phil has interacted with me. 

  1. I didn't share the facebook messages because I thought it would be a breach of privacy to share a private message thread without Phil's permission, and I don't want to talk to him, so I can't get his permission.
  2. I also don't especially want to link to the piece calling me a racist, which anyone familiar with Phil's output would already know about, in any case.
  3. There is a reason I didn't share the screenshot of the the paedophilia/rape accusations, which is that I thought it would be totally unfair to the people accused. This is why I called  them 'celebrities' rather vaguely.

As you say, I have shown all of these claims to be true in private in any case. 

This feels a lot like punishing someone for having the guts to call out a vindictive individual in the grip of a lifelong persecution complex. As illustrated by the upvotes on my comments, lots of people agree with me, but didn't want to say anything, for whatever reason. If you were going to offer any sanction for anyone, I would have thought it would be the people at CSER, such as Simon Beard and Luke Kemp, who have kept collaborating with him and endorsing his work for the last few years, despite knowing about the behaviour that you have just banned him for. 

Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion is not necessary for population ethics: new many-author collaboration.

Echoing what Max says, I think this paper comes from the assumption that a lot of population ethics is just off down the wrong track of trying to craft theories in a somewhat ad hoc manner that avoid the repugnant conclusion. It is difficult to think of how else these people could try and make this point given that making the same points that others have made before, in some cases several decades ago, would not be publishable because they are not novel. This strikes me as something of a (frustrated?) last resort to try and make the discipline acknowledge that there might be a problem in the way it has been going for thirty years. 

I suppose one alternative would have been to publish this on a philosophy blog, but then it would necessarily have got less reach than getting it in a top journal. 

Although unusual in philosophy, the practice is widespread in science. Scientists will often write in short letters criticising published articles that are light on substantive argument but reiterate a view among some prominent researchers. 

Finally, I think it is useful to have more surveys of what different researchers in a field believe, and this is one such instance of that - it tells us that several of the world's best moral philosophers are willing to accept this thing that everyone else seems to think is insane. 

Julia Galef and Matt Yglesias on bioethics and "ethics expertise"

I think a key point is that bioethics usually involves applying particular moral theories, which is not that interesting an exercise from a philosophical point of view. That's why the best philosophers are often drawn to higher level theoretical questions such as about the truth of otherwise of consequentialism or rights-based theories or whether and how we should respond to moral uncertainty. Consequently, the true ethics experts (if they really exist) are not likely to be studying bioethics. as they say in the podcast it is also weird that bioethics has this special status as a field with a distinct set of experts who get to veto public policy. In most areas of public policy, the economists get to decide what happens (subject to political constraints), and the outcomes are usually much better!

Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

If you agree it is a serious and baseless allegation, why do you keep engaging with him? The time to stop engaging with him was several years ago. You had sufficient evidence to do so at least two years ago, and I know that because I presented you with it, e.g. when he started casually throwing around rape allegations about celebrities on facebook and tagging me in the comments, and then calling me and others nazis. Why do  you and your colleagues continue to extensively collaborate with him? 

To reiterate, the arguments he makes are not sincere: he only makes them because he thinks the people in question have wronged him. 

Response to Phil Torres’ ‘The Case Against Longtermism’

It is  very generous to characterise Torres' post as insightful and thought provoking. He characterises various long-termists as white  supremacists on the flimsiest grounds imaginable. This is a very serious accusation and one that he very obviously throws around due to his own personal vendettas against certain people. e.g. despite many of his former colleagues at CSER also being long-termists he doesn't call them nazis because he doesn't believe they have slighted him. Because I made the mistake of once criticising him, he spent much of the last two years calling me a white supremacist, even though the piece of mine he cited did not even avow belief in long-termism.  

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