Yes, that seems like the main thing we disagree about. It also seems like we disagree about the likely impact of deworming.
Another point is - how much economic value can you extract from an atom? I have no idea how you would go about answering that question without making some other substantive arguments about the limits to growth. This suggests that the atoms argument is a weak steer on limits to growth.
Hello, yes this was in part a response to the arguments there where he suggested that policy is in the same ballpark as GiveWell top charities, which I don't think can be true given other things he says.
"Yeah, I think that’s totally right. And I think, again, if you had more of a dominance argument, where it’s like, look, the returns to the policy are just always going to outweigh the returns to evidence-based aid, then I think you would end up with more back and forth and debate between them. But when you see the arguments for cost effectiveness act... (read more)
Hello, thanks for this and thanks for assisting with our report on that!
To clarify, it's not the case that the FP report didn't have any recommendations because we didn't find anything good. We stopped because we couldn't guarantee that we could move enough money to the area to make it worth our own time and that of the organisations we evaluated. We didn't discover anything that made me think we wouldn't find something better than deworming if we were to put a couple of person-years into it.
On your tldr - the point of my post is that I don't see how... (read more)
Is it sufficient for it to be good to vote for EAs to be better than the median voter? (which I think is probably true.)
I think there is a typo in the bit about Weyl?
The interesting thing about the Weyl proposal is that it is an alternative to private property that could potentially produce better social outcomes from a consequentialist/utilitarian/social welfare point of view. The reason for this is that it overcomes the tragedy of the anti-commons, such that holdouts can extract rents, sometimes at huge expense to society. If Weyl's proposal would produce better outcomes, would you be in favour of it
Given the non-identity problem, doesn't the requirement that future people benefit more than they lose allow us to leave future generations with quite a bad situation? eg emitting fossil fuels changes the identities of people in the future, and we could feasibly make the world >10C hotter which would leave lots of tropical countries in a bad state but it would not harm them since they would not have existed had we not emitted
The point he is making is about worker cooperatives, rather than firms in general. A widely recognised problem with worker cooperatives is that there are disincentives to scale because adding more workers is a cost to the existing coop owners. So, the point doesn't apply to privately owned companies because adding workers do not get a share of the business
I think almost all critiques of capitalism rest on a failure to understand what capitalism actually is. Capitalism is private ownership of the means of production. Socialism is public or common ownership of the means of production. Capitalism is not greed. Socialism is not benevolence and love. They are systems of ownership. Once you see this, a lot of criticisms of capitalism melt away.
This is one important contribution that Jason Brennan has made to philosophy - http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2014/06/socialism-%E2%89%A0-love-and-kindness-capi... (read more)
I tried that book and didn't find it helpful. Last time I checked there wasn't much evidence that the method he proposes works
What do you make of Glen Weyl's argument for a common-ownership self-assessed tax? In general, do you think people have strong rights of self-ownership? Do you think that people have strong ownership rights over the natural world, or do you think there are strong egalitarian restrictions on that? where do you stand on left-libertarianism vs right-libertarianism?
Do you think making the moral case for capitalism could be a very important thing to do? My impression is that the case for it seems to have been lost among the young, which could have important effects down the line
You have written about the importance of economic growth - what do you make of Lant Pritchett's arguments on that topic?
What is your view of population ethics? What do you make of longtermism?
People tomorrow matter. We cannot simply imposes costs upon them. As Feinberg argued long ago, if I left a time bomb underground that would explode in 200 years, when it kills people, I am a murderer.Still, we have good reason to think overall that people in the future will be much better off than we are. That doesn't license us to hurt them for our benefit, but we can take steps that impose costs upon them IFF doing so is part of a reasonable risk-sharing scheme from which they benefit more than they lose.
What do you make of Rob Wiblin's post on the value of voting - https://80000hours.org/articles/is-voting-important/
Do you think that any political or institutional reform projects could be highly impactful? What would you recommend - would it be Garret Jones 10% less democracy-type stuff or something more radical?
Thanks for engaging with me so deeply on this. To avoid misunderstandings, the comments about my desire for a debate were not meant as a criticism of you. I suppose I am a bit disappointed that no-one from GiveWell or Open Philanthropy has responded to Lant's arguments. When I mentioned the upvotes mine and Hauke's post got, I wasn't trying to blow my own horn (much as I like doing that), I was just trying to say that there is at least a case to answer. But two years on, no-one has engaged with the post. A lot is at stake here - I think we're leaving an aw... (read more)
On your first question - what am I proposing?
The main thing I am proposing is quite weak - I am proposing that there be some public discussion of the arguments. Hauke and I published our piece summarising Pritchett's argument two years ago. It is the second most upvoted post in EA Forum history, which suggests that lots of people in the community found the post persuasive. On the face of it, Lant is worth taking seriously: he has a PhD in economics from MIT, has been a professor of development at Harvard and Oxford, and worked at the World Ba... (read more)
Thanks for the reply. I'll have to answer it... it was supposed to be short, I really didn't have the time, but then I started enjoying it. But I have a TL;DR.TL;DR: I guess we’re not understanding each other very well, as you seem to be responding to other people (unfortunately, because I’m a big fan). I don’t see why you categorize me as a skeptic. I think we actually agree (i) RCT shouldn’t be the main path for dev-eco researchers, and (ii) there should be more research focused on developing countries. But: (iii) development economics is more complex th... (read more)
I do think it is important to distinguish these moral uncertainty reasons from moral trade and cooperation and strategic considerations for hedging. My argument for putting some focus on near-termist causes would be of this latter kind; the putative moral uncertainty/worldview diversification arguments for hedging carry little weight with me.
As an example, Greaves and Ord argue that under the expected choiceworthiness approach, our metanormative ought is practically the same as the total utilitarian ought.
It's tricky because the paper on strong longt... (read more)
I agree that it would be good to have a name for a less contentious form of longtermism similar to the one you propose, which says something like: the longterm deserves a seat at the top table with other commonly accept near-term priorities.
I suspect one common response might be that due to normative uncertainty, we don't put all of our weight on longtermism but instead hedge across different plausible views. I haven't yet seen a defence of that view that I would view as compelling, so I think it would be valuable to have a less contentious version that we would be willing to stand behind in public
I do think it is a key pillar of EA that there is open public discussion of arguments for and against different positions. I haven't seen much engagement with the case for focusing on economic growth.
On the last point, during the early Pliocene, early hominids with much worse technology than us lived in a world in which temperatures were 4.5C warmer than pre-industrial. It would be a surprise to me if this level of warming would kill off everyone, including people in temperate regions. There's more to come from me on this topic, but I will leave it at that for now
Hello! I will attempt to clarify, let me know whether this helps
To push further on this... a natural response is to say "it only seems implausible that Bezos' liver could have this economic value because you're considering an organ in the abstract. But once his liver is combined with the rest of his Bezos and the influence he can have on the rest of the world, it stops being implausible". This is true but then the same point applies to collections of atoms. I don't know of a non-question begging way round this.
i was just referring to the last bullet re climate change. eg in the last IPCC report, it would have been reasonable for govts to believe that there was a >10% chance of >6C of warming and that has been true since the 1970s, without having any impact. The political response to climate change seems to be influenced by most mainstream media coverage and public opinion in some circles which it would be fair to characterise as 'very concerned' about climate change. An opinion poll suggests that 54% of British people think that climate change threat... (read more)
I don't climate research as very valuable. The value of information would only be high if this research would change how people act. Climate inaction seems to be mainly political inertia, not lack of information about potential catastrophe.
Fair cop on the access to atoms numbers.
(thinking aloud a bit here) An analogy might be that Jeff Bezos has 78 organs. His net worth is $200bn. So there is $3bn of output for each of his organs. I just don't know at what number it becomes implausible that his average organ could sustain a certain level of output. And this generally seems like a weird way to think about the limits on Bezos' output. This seems structurally similar to the atoms point.
Yeah I would think with VR and digital minds, it's a lot less clear whether there are diminishing returns from matter to subjective wellbeing.
Very interesting post. I'm interested in this argument about atoms and growth.
Yeah I crunched the numbers on this and the majority of human life years came after about 1300 (obviously very roughly)
Yep - that's a key argument and I think he is right. Offsetting is likely harmful in my view.
One important thing he argues for is the political economy barriers to carbon pricing. Jaccard himself worked to set up carbon pricing in Canada, but is very sceptical that it is the best thing to advocate for given political economy constraints. I think EAs sometimes miss this point and advocate for carbon pricing as the first best solution. Unfortunately, we are in the nth best world .
Agree this is a great book!
It is clear that energy consumption cannot continue to grow exponentially for much more than 1000 years. But it might be argued that we can continue to extract ever more economic value from less and less energy, especially with VR. This is discussed in the debate between Robin Hanson and Bryan Caplan, and Toby Ord in the comments.
See the comment here by Max Daniel:
"there are limits in how much value (whether in an economic or moral sense) we can produce per unit of available energy, and (ii) we will eventually only be able to expand the total amount ... (read more)
I agree that this is a problem and had previously raised the question in a post on the Forum, (though it is my lowest scoring post ever so evidently lots of people disagree with my argument!)
This issue became especially clear in early attempts by economists to put a value on the life of people across countries. Since people in poor countries took on greater risk for less money, their lives were valued at a fraction of those in rich countries.
Another example is tickets. Suppose that we are selling tickets to the final of Euro 2020 and that Warre... (read more)
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
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 neglec... (read more)
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.
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/
Simon Beard is providing the foreword for his forthcoming book, and Luke Kemp has provided a supporting quote for it.
I'm pretty surprised and disappointed by this warning. I made 3 claims about ways that Phil has interacted with me.
(Since I drafted the original message, and it was only reviewed and approved by other moderators, I’ll use “I” in some parts of this thread.)
I owe you an apology for a lack of clarity in this message, and for not discussing my concerns with you in private before posting it (given that we’d already been discussing other aspects of the situation).
“Warning” was the wrong word to use. The thing we were trying to convey wasn’t “this is the kind of content that could easily lead to a ban”, but instead “this goes against a norm we want to promote on the Forum, an... (read more)
I appreciate that these kinds of moderation decisions can be difficult, but I also don't agree with the warning to Halstead. And if it is to be given, then I am uncomfortable that Halstead has been singled out - it would seem consistent to apply the same warning to me, as I supported Halstead's claims, and added my own, both without providing evidence.
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 t... (read more)
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 ... (read more)
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.
[disclaimer: I am co-Director at CSER. While much of what I will write intersects with professional responsibilities, it is primarily written from a personal perspective, as this is a deeply personal matter for me. Apologies in advance if that's confusing, this is a distressing and difficult topic for me, and I may come back and edit. I may also delete my comment, for professional or personal/emotional reasons].
I am sympathetic to Halstead's position here, and feel I need to write my own perspective. Clearly to the extent that CSER has - whether directly o... (read more)
I don't have any comment to make about Torres or his motives (I think I was in a room with him once). However, as a more general point, I think it can still make sense to engage with someone's arguments, whatever their motivation, at least if there are other people who take them seriously. I also don't have a view on whether others in the longtermism/X-risk world do take Torres's concern seriously, it's not really my patch.
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.
Despite disagreeing with most of it, including but not limited to the things highlighted in this post, I think that Torres's post is fairly characterised as thought-provoking. I'm glad Joshua included it in the syllabus, also glad he caveated its inclusion, and think this response by Hayden is useful.
I haven't interacted with Phil much at all, so this is a comment purely on the essay, and not a defense of other claims he's made or how he's interacted with you.
A quick point of clarification that Phil Torres was never staff at CSER; he was a visitor for a couple of months a few years ago. He has unfortunately misrepresented himself as working at CSER on various media (unclear if deliberate or not). (And FWIW he has made similar allusions, albeit thinly veiled, about me).
On species extinctions, you cite the Thomas et al estimate that climate change would cause "15-37% of all species to become ‘committed to extinction’ by mid-century". This paper has been subject to an avalanche of criticism. For example, there is a good review here, and strong counter-evidence discussed at length here. I think it would be useful to the reader to provide this context.
Also, this is just one study (also the most pessimistic), and I think one would get a better view by providing an overview of the literature. The IPBES report that ... (read more)
The factors you mention therefore seem to increase vulnerability, but merely in the following sense
thanks for taking the time to do this!