All of Harrison Durland's Comments + Replies

The Many Faces of Effective Altruism

I wonder if Twitter data (e.g., follows, engagement) would replicate some of these distinctions in terms of clustering, and if it might show areas of common cross-pollination? (Of course, there may be some representativeness issues with some groups, but it’d still be interesting or at least “amusing.”)

1Devin Kalish4d
I'd be very curious to see something like this. My guess is it will be hard to extract the type of vague cultural currents I'm talking about from other distinctions that might exist in the data, like people focusing on different cause areas, or from different parts of the political spectrum.
Oh yeah, there's clustering networks showing mutual followers of e.g. Twitch streamers, it shouldn't be too hard to make this for the EA sphere on twitter.
Should we call them something other than retreats?

I’ve also had similar thoughts, but haven’t really thought about alternative names until now. Still, I’m not quickly thinking of obviously-great alternatives. Perhaps “EA Workshops” or “Seminars”?

Having said that, it’s worth pointing out that although “retreats” can often be used in religious contexts, there is plenty of usage in the sense of “corporate retreats.” So ultimately the label may not be that bad, it’s more a matter of how it’s framed and whether it involves a lot of people who are new to/unfamiliar with EA.

2Adrià Garriga Alonso4d
Seminar is also pretty religious. I very much like "EA workshops"
Should we call them something other than retreats?

To me, summit feels a bit too grand and “culminatory” (or whatever the word is), either because I think of summits bringing together disparate groups of people (e.g., from different universities/countries) or at the end of some project.

"Mini-summit"? Less elegant, but maybe more fitting.
For multiple people who have been brainstorming to replace the word "retreat" for many months, the word "summit" actually grants a particularly desirable culminating spirit. One common problem reported by organizers is that students are far from being ambitious enough in their summer, extracurricular, and post-graduation plans. The ubiquity of this observation leads myself and others to want to choose very deliberately exciting and forceful words. "Summit" has remained a good option in my mind and in the minds of a few other student organizers after almost a year of thinking about this issue because it makes the event seem more ambitious―more serious. In turn, this kind of environment makes students take themselves more seriously. It is important to highlight that a student demographic audience is the dispositive quality in this situation that makes me insist on the above.
U.S. EAs Should Consider Applying to Join U.S. Diplomacy

Many issue areas most prioritized by EA – biosecurity, pandemic response, artificial intelligence – remain neglected within the State Department. If you can introduce a more rational, long termist perspective into an often short-sighted policy process, the marginal impact of your presence can be quite significant.

How easy is it to go against the grain like that? Are there not institutional pressures to focus on short-term considerations?

There are definitely institutional pressures to focus on short-term considerations, especially for those offices that play bigger roles in quickly-evolving bilateral and multilateral issues. The more technical offices (also called functional bureaus []) that have subject matter experts working on longer term strategic issues, and being called on to review the quicker/shorter-term considerations. These tend to have a higher number of Civil Service employees who are in the office for decades (unlike Foreign Service who are in a specific position for 1-3 years), making longterm considerations easier. Overall, I don't think State suffers as much from an emphasis on short-term considerations as other Departments might since the bulk of State's work isn't focused on partisan issues or dependent on election cycles.
U.S. EAs Should Consider Applying to Join U.S. Diplomacy

I think it probably makes sense to change the title of the post for efficiency reasons (I.e., “don’t bother reading if you aren’t American”), but not because I think it contributes to EA being a more “globally welcoming and inclusive movement,” which I feel like is a less significant issue/concern here. (Yes, the argument seems to be that without saying “American EAs” the implied assumption is that all EAs are American, but I don’t think that’s a strong vibe; at the very least, I wouldn’t imply that the post shows hypocrisy in EA)

I agree on the efficiency reason as well, good point.

However, as a non-American EA, I think its worth me pointing out that this type of thing is an example of the US-centric status quo in the community which does alienate and frustrate us non-US EAs (I know this is true for many of us, having been speaking and thinking about this frustration with other non-US EAs for about 6 years).

What are examples where extreme risk policies have been successfully implemented?

Setting aside whether or not such risks were actually significant, perhaps planetary protection could be an interesting example of where bureaucracies spent time and money to mitigate unknown risks from e.g., extraterrestrial contamination.

What are examples where extreme risk policies have been successfully implemented?

I'm not exactly sure what you have in mind for the research, but I think it might be interesting to at least draw parallels or have pseudo-benchmarks with policy responses to non-existential low-probability risks, such as 9/11 (or terrorism more generally) and US mass shootings.

1Joris P3d
Thanks Harrison, we're indeed looking at exactly those "policy responses to non-existential low-probability risks" as there is little material out there on policy change regarding GC & X-risks. By 'lowering the bar' a bit to what we called 'extreme risks', we hope to include smaller, less deadly risks into our case study candidates. As such, 9/11 is indeed one to consider, thank!
Would Structured Discussion Platforms for EA Community Building Ideas be Valuable? (See Prototype Example)

re: "filtering", I really was only talking about "clearly uninteresting/bad" claims—i.e., things that almost no reasonable person would take seriously even before reading counterarguments. I can't think of many great examples off the top of my head—and in fact it might rarely ever require such moderation among most EAs—but perhaps one example may be conspiracy-theory claims like "Our lizard overlords will forever prevent AGI..." or non-sequiturs like "The color of the sky reflects a human passion for knowledge and discovery, and this love of knowledge can ... (read more)

yes, that is the thing - the culture in EA is key - overall great intentions, cooperation, responsiveness to feedback, etc (alongside with EA principles) - can go long way - well, ok, it can be also training in developing good ideas by building on the ongoing discourse: 'you mean like if animals with relatively limited (apparent) cognitive capacity are in power then AGI can never develop?' or 'well machines do not need to love knowledge, they can feel indifferent or dislike it. plus, machines do not need to recognize blue to achieve their objectives' - this advances some thinking. the quality of arguments, including those about crucial considerations, should be assessed on their merit of contributing to good idea development (impartially welfarist, unless something better is developed?). yes but the de-duplication is a real issue. with the current system, it seems to me that there are people thinking in very similar ways about doing the most good so it is very inefficient
Is green growth or degrowth the best near-term future? 

This is about to hit part of southern Asia within 50 years and thus 1-3.5 billion - up to 1 in 3 human beings. 

To be clear, that article only forecasts that outcome in the "business-as-usual" approach  which seems to mean to them an increase of 5–8 degrees Celsius (figure 2B), which seems like a really high estimate; is that within the standard forecasted range, or is that more like the "assume all progress in renewable energy magically halts and we continue on as if nothing bad is happenin... (read more)

1Goran Haden7d
Thanks for re-reading and considering arguments. 1-2: In the study I mentioned it’s within 50 years. Will it stay there? Earlier studies estimated this would take around 200 years, according to [] (I can’t access these studies) Of course I do hope and believe that we can avoid the business as usual scenario, but at the same time we have all these feedback loops and combination of effects that IPCC doesn’t count. On the other hand we also have more technichal progress than expected. On the third hand, it might be a harder time for all these refugees in the future. As the study also mentions: “warming to 2 °C, compared with 1.5 °C, is estimated to increase the number of people exposed to climate-related risks and poverty by up to several hundred million by 2050”. Here’s another study about future wet bulb temperatures in South Asia: [] The heat deaths in India and Pakistan now, is expected annually with 2 C warming. [] That contributes to less cheap food. Already, 2 in 5 britons buy less to eat in a new study: [] But I think we will also use new ways to produce food (Allfed, etc). I haven’t seen any numbers like: So many people will die and so much suffering/happiness do we get during next 50 years if global GDP during next 10 years is -3% annually instead of +3% due to degrowth only in rich countries. And degrowt
Is green growth or degrowth the best near-term future? 

A few points:

  1. There needs to be more quantification—even if only loose quantification—of the impact of environmental harms in this post. I was unclear what the problem we’re trying to avoid is: it felt a bit like hand waving, saying “we might miss these goals/targets” but without making the impact of that clear.
  2. Could you try to summarize the post more clearly up front and/or use headers for different sections? (Or use bolding for key statements). The analysis felt a bit windy, which slowed down and undermined my reading/understanding.
  3. My view is that “de
... (read more)
1Goran Haden7d
Thanks for your points. 1. How much suffering different environmental problems will cause is, as you know, difficult to put numbers on, especially in combination. But I fully agree with Toby Ord's conclusion that it is very unlikely that humanity would become extinct this century as a result of climate change. However, I think most people will have worse lives due to environmental degradation, compared to if we stopped prioritizing growth now, which is not so dramatic as it may seem. The pretty unknown direct climate effect that worries me the most is deadly wet bulb temperature - when it is high humidity and at the same time warmer outside than the skin's temperature which is up to 35 degrees C, the body can not cool down by sweating. Then everyone dies within a few hours outdoors, as in a wet sauna if it’s impossible to get out. This is about to hit part of southern Asia within 50 years and thus 1-3.5 billion - up to 1 in 3 human beings. [] To stop this, we should reach the global goal at most +1.5 degrees. Then the climate impact of rich countries needs to be reduced by 10-20 percent each year. It is very unlikely that it would happen suddenly. If we also have growth, both experience and scientifically developed models suggest that a decoupling between GDP and greenhouse gas emissions greater than 3–4 per cent per year is very difficult to achieve. Some sources for that: Schandl et al. (2016), Hickel & Kallis (2020), the simulation tool C-ROADS (developed by Climate Interactive and MIT Sloan). 2. Ok, it’s only a 3 minutes text with different aspects, but perhaps like this? Key point: If we continue to have overall GDP growth in rich countries this decade, we will most likely exceed the planetary boundaries even more. Is it worth that? 3. I agree that degrowth is a word that sounds bad. A common response, for example from one of Sweden's most infl
If EA is no longer funding constrained, why should *I* give?

If you aren’t opposed to donating to political campaigns: some campaign finance laws restrict the amount of money that can go directly to campaigns on a per-person basis, so at least that seems like an area where “small” donors can still matter.

Agree with this point. Jeffrey Ladish wrote "US Citizens: Targeted political contributions are probably the best passive donation opportunities for mitigating existential risk [] ". He says: If you're not a US citizen, you can volunteer for a campaign (that's legal [] !).
Would Structured Discussion Platforms for EA Community Building Ideas be Valuable? (See Prototype Example)

I’m not sure how I never saw this response (perhaps I saw the notification but forgot to read), but thank you for the response!

I’m not familiar with the 6x6x6 synthesis; would it not require 216 participants, though? (That seems quite demanding) Or am I misunderstanding? (Also, the whole 666 thing might not make for the best optics in light of e.g., cult accusations, lol)

I’m not sure what you’re referring to regarding “curated,” but if you’re referring to the collection of ideas/claims on something like Kialo I think my point was just that you can have moderators filter out the ideas that seem clearly uninteresting/bad, duplicative, etc.

ok - yes, it is 5^3 (if you exclude a 'facilitator') .. yes, although some events are for even more people. Hm .. but filtering can be biasing/limiting innovation and motivating by fear rather than support (further limiting critical thinking)? .. this is why overall brainstorming while keeping in mind EA-related ideas can be better (even initial ideas (e. g. even those that are not cost-effective!) can be valuable, because they support the development of more optimal ideas) - 'curation' should be exercised as a form of internal complaint (e. g. if someone's responsiveness to feedback is limited - 'others are offering more cost-effective solutions and they are not engaging in a dialogue') - this could be prevented by great built-in feedback mechanism infrastructure (and addressed by some expert evaluation of ideas, such as via EA Funds, that already exist). duplicative ideas should be identified - even complementary ideas. Then, people can 1) stop developing ideas that others have already developed and do something else, 2) work with others to develop these ideas further, 3) work with others with similar ideas on projects.
The biggest risk of free-spending EA is not optics or motivated cognition, but grift

I’m not super motivated+available at the moment to do a full write up/analysis, but I’m quite skeptical of the idea that the default/equilibrium in EA would trend towards 100% grift, regardless of whether that is the standard in companies (which I also dispute, although I don’t disagree that as an organization becomes larger self-management becomes increasingly complex—perhaps more complex than can be efficiently handled by humans running on weak ancestral-social hardware).

It might be plausible that “grift” becomes more of a problem, approaching (say) 25% ... (read more)

Worrying about the percent of spending misses the main problems, e.g. donors who notice the increasing grift become less willing to trust the claims of new organizations, thereby missing some of the best opportunities.

"Tech company singularities", and steering them to reduce x-risk

I’m a bit confused and wanted to clarify what you mean by AGI vs AAGI: are you of the belief that AGI could be safely controlled (e.g., boxed) but that setting it to “autonomously” pursue the same objectives would be unsafe?

Could you describe what an AGI system might look like in comparison to an AAGI?

Hypertension is Extremely Important, Tractable, and Neglected

I support thinking about/discussing neglected problems like this, and it might be the case that there is serious room for improvement here. However, I do want to briefly push back on your selective reporting of the most favorable $/DALY estimate:

There’s also good evidence that treatment programs can be cost-effective. A review of hypertension control interventions reports a handful of studies with costs of less than $100 per DALY averted. This cutoff is sometimes referenced as a benchmark for the cost effectiveness of insecticide treated bednet programs.

... (read more)
Thanks, I accept the critique. I do think it's clear from the full post, however, that I'm just making the case for greater focus by the community, rather than saying this is a closed case. I also state clearly in the same paragraph that other studies had much higher cost estimates.
Becoming an EA Architect: My First Month as an Independent Researcher

I feel like when I've heard people talk about this it was often targeted at specific high-importance, high-density buildings like schools, hospitals, government institutions, etc. rather than every office building.

Bad Omens in Current Community Building

Yeah, I recall my university organizing days and the awkwardness/difficulty of trying to balance "tell me about the careers you are interested in and why" and "here are the careers that seem highly impactful according to research/analysis."

I frequently thought things like "I'd like for people to have a way for people to share their perspective without feeling obligated to defend it, but I also don't want to blanket-validate everyone's perspectives by simply not being critical."

How I torched my biggest career opportunity so far

The end result ("I missed out on an opportunity") might be the same, but the process matters. There's a meaningful difference between, e.g., "having a breakdown and sending a long obscenity-filled rant-text to your former boss who then talks to your current boss and has you fired" and "not following up on an opportunity because you thought you had a better opportunity but you were probably wrong."

How I torched my biggest career opportunity so far

When I read the post title (“torched”), I was expecting to see a story of how you totally screwed something up for no good reason, but unless I missed something I would describe this as more like “passed over” rather than “torched.”

Time's arrow goes only one way, my friend. Once it's gone you can't get it back, same as if you lit it on fire.
The COILS Framework for Decision Analysis: A Shortened Intro+Pitch

"This plan will also cause Z, which is morally bad" is its own disadvantage/con.

"... and outweighs the benefit of X" relates to the caveat listed in footnote 3: you are no longer attacking/challenging the advantage itself ("this plan causes X"), but rather just redirecting towards a disadvantage. (Unless you are claiming something like "the benefits of X are not as strong as you suggested," in which case you're attacking it on significance.)

The COILS Framework for Decision Analysis: A Shortened Intro+Pitch

I did include some example applications in the long introduction post (see my response to Khorton); I was worried that trying to include an example in this version might make it too long and thus lead to a high bounce rate… but perhaps I should have made it clear that I do have some applications in the old post.

Here is the first example (with updated terminology):

Consider lobbying for some policy change in a developing country—for example, on tobacco policy. Suppose that the proposal is to fund an advocacy campaign that would push for tighter controls on

... (read more)
Donation Advisor

Just to clarify since I see you are new and you didn't mention it by name: Are you familiar with Givewell? It's a fairly well-respected organization in the EA community, and people can simply donate money to Givewell for them to allocate to the most effective charities.

Also, I want to push back on one of your potential assumptions: I'm not so confident that people donate to less-effective charities primarily as a result of "laziness", nor am I convinced that it's accurate to broadly say that "many people seem to not care who or what receives their donation... (read more)

2Andreas R.13d
Hey, thank you for your response. Sorry for my ignorance, as I did know about Givewell but not about this possibility and am just starting my EA journey. In my post I am actually referring to one finding of the article such as: "While the sample was composed entirely of people sufficiently committed to charitable giving to have gone to the trouble of setting up a charity bank account, interviewees were often disarmingly honest about their lack of knowledge regarding the causes and charities they support. Despite distributing thousands of pounds a year, one donor prefaced his replies by saying: “I’m going to be the wrong person to ask because I’m not sure I give it that much intellectual thought” (male, thirties, high income). Others admitted a similar lack of investment in their charitable decision making" (Breeze, 2013, p. 6). and although it might contradict with the key conclusions in the abstract, the article was about getting a holistic perspective on very different people and motives of donation behavior. In my post and my considerations I focused only on this apparent sub-group of people (the size and therefore importance of that "group" can not be determined due to the qualitative nature of the article) that the authors describe who seemingly want to donate but don't care too much who will receive it apparently and how to get them to donate more effectively given their motivation to do good but also lack of initiative. These are somewhat "marketing" considerations on how to target different groups of donors optimally.
Longtermist slogans that need to be retired

I was just about to make all three of these points (with the first bullet containing two), so thank you for saving me the time!

Space governance - problem profile

If I'm reading you right I don't think your points apply to near-term considerations, such as from arms control in space.

That is mostly correct: I wasn't trying to respond to near-term space governance concerns, such as how to prevent space development or space-based arms races, which I think could indeed play into long-term/x-risk considerations (e.g., undermining cooperation in AI or biosecurity), and may also have near-term consequences (e.g., destruction of space satellites which undermines living standards and other issues). 


But if you have

... (read more)
Space governance - problem profile

This is partially an accurate objection (i.e., I do think that x-risks and other longtermist concerns tend to significantly outweigh near-term problems such as in health and development), but there is an important distinction to make with my objections to certain aspects of space governance:

Contingent on AI timelines, there is a decent chance that none of our efforts will even have a significantly valuable near-term effect (i.e., we won't achieve our goals by the time we get AGI). Consider the following from the post/article:

If the cost of travelling to ot

... (read more)
Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers

I suppose "management complexity/demand" might indeed be a bit too narrow, but either way it just feels like you're basically trying to define "core competency-ness" as "difficulty of outsourcing this task [whether for management demand or other reasons]," in which case I think it would make more sense to just replace "core competency-ness" with "difficulty of outsourcing this task." 

My worry is that trying to define "core competency-ness" that way feels a bit unintuitive, and could end up leading to accidental equivocation/motte-and-baileys if someon... (read more)

Space governance - problem profile

I feel like the discussion of AI is heavily underemphasized in this problem profile (in fact, in this post it is the last thing mentioned).

I used to casually think "sure, space governance seems like it could be a good idea to start on soon; space exploration needs to happen eventually, I guess," but once I started to consider the likelihood and impact of AI development within the next 200 or even ~60 years, I very heavily adjusted my thinking towards skepticism/pessimism. 

That question of AI development seems like a massive gatekeeper/determinant to t... (read more)

Thanks for this, I think I agree with the broad point you're making. That is, I agree that basically all the worlds in which space ends up really mattering this century are worlds in which we get transformative AI (because scenarios in which we start to settle widely and quickly are scenarios in which we get TAI). So, for instance, I agree that there doesn't seem to be much value in accelerating progress on space technology. And I also agree that getting alignment right is basically a prerequisite to any of the longer-term 'flowthrough' considerations. If I'm reading you right I don't think your points apply to near-term considerations, such as from arms control in space. It seems like a crux is something like: how much precedent-setting or preliminary research now on ideal governance setups doesn't get washed out once TAI arrives, conditional on solving alignment? And my answer is something like: sure, probably not a ton. But if you have a reason to be confident that none of it ends up being useful, it feels like that must be a general reason for scepticism that any kind of efforts at improving governance, or even values change, are rendered moot by the arrival of TAI. And I'm not fully sceptical about those efforts. Suppose before TAI arrived we came to a strong conclusion: e.g. we're confident we don't want to settle using such-and-such a method, or we're confident we shouldn't immediately embark on a mission to settle space once TAI arrives. What's the chance that work ends up making a counterfactual difference, once TAI arrives? Notquite zero, it seems to me. So I am indeed on balance significantly less excited about working on long-term space governance things than on alignment and AI governance, for the reasons you give. But not so much that they don't seem worth mentioning. This seems like a reasonable point, and one I was/am cognisant of — maybe I'll make an addition if I get time. (Happy to try saying more about any of above if useful)

This sentiment seems like a fully general objection to every intervention not directly related to AI safety (or TAI). 

As presented currently, many TAI or AI safety related scenarios blow out all other considerations—it won't matter how far you get to Alpha Centauri with prosaic spaceships, TAI will track you down. 

It seems like you would need to get "altitude" to give this consideration proper thought (pardon the pun). My guess is that the OP has done that.

An easy win for hard decisions.

Well, it was worth a shot, but it doesn't seem to have gotten any more traction in a simplified/shortened post, unfortunately.

There's no text!

The COILS Framework for Decision Analysis: A Shortened Intro+Pitch

Some example applications can be found in this section of my previous (long) post on this topic, but I will make a slight—maybe even pedantic—note/clarification: you can use this framework to "criticize a decision" in the sense that you can analyze/dispute the advantages claimed in favor of a decision, but you can also use the framework to make the assumptions of your disadvantages explicit (i.e., for purposes of reasoning transparency). So, the former is like using a blueprint to figure out how best to tear down a house, whereas the latter is like using a... (read more)

Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers

I think there may be some confusion over the semantics of “core competency”—I wasn’t trying to say you could outsource the outsourcing, I was just saying “a company’s biggest strength can be that it is effective at outsourcing”—but I feel like that confusion further reinforces my main point, in the first paragraph: it seems to me like “management complexity/demand” would be a better Y-axis label than “core competency-ness”?

I think you are saying something like: "outsourcing is a managerial task, therefore bottlenecks on outsourcing are by definition bottlenecked on management." I think this is true, but I don't think it's the most helpful way of phrasing it. E.g. many biology labs can't outsource their research (or even have it be replicated by labs which are almost identical) because their work relies on a bunch of tiny things like "you should incubate the cells at 30°C except if you notice some of them starting to turn a little yellowish increase the heat to 32°C but then also you maybe need to add this nutrient bath…" You could argue that documenting these procedures is a managerial task, and therefore the outsourcing is bottlenecked on management – again, I think this is true, but it seems more insightful to describe these biological procedures as a core competency of the lab. (To me, at least, YMMV.)
Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers

Just curious, has CEA ever hired/talked to a management consultant about all of this? I think it would be more persuasive to some people if you said “we hired/contracted a management consultant to discuss the situation and they largely concurred, saying that we can’t contract out our core competencies even with a funding overhang” rather than the “proof” (which TBH I thought was a bit silly) and the appeal to common practices in business (although this would be a good supplemental explanation).

Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers

“Say that an activity is a core competency if it provides substantial value to the customer and is difficult for competitors to copy.” “I am not aware of any successful companies which largely outsource labor on their core competencies.[3] All companies outsource secondary priorities (e.g. use outsourced lawyers), and some will occasionally pull in consultants to help with specific initiatives, but I don’t know of any successful company whose labor force on their core competencies primarily consists of contractors.”

I think that appeals to successful bus... (read more)

Why CEA Online doesn’t outsource more work to non-EA freelancers

“In order for an organization to successfully outsource work on its core competencies, those outsourced contractors need to be well integrated with the team: they need to attend all the meetings and retreats, be in the same slack channels, give and receive feedback on their work, etc. This means that successfully outsourcing work requires a lot of the same management capacity which having in-sourced labor requires.”

It seemed to me like the key variable you’re trying to highlight is management costs or something similar (while “core competency” is just a... (read more)

Hmmm, no, I think the ability to outsource well is not itself easily outsourceable. E.g. if you have some method of identifying whether an outsourced factory will produce high-quality products, I guess you could train an outsourced team to do that identification, but that doesn't seem remarkably easier than hiring staff and training them on your identification methods.
How Do You Get People to Really Show Up to Local Group Meetups?

I'm not sure I fully understand what you're asking; are you asking:

  1. How do you get group members/EAs to physically show up to meetups?
  2. How do you get group members/EAs to show up either physically or virtually to meetups?
  3. How do you get people in general (including people who may not be very familiar with EA or already part of your group) to become sufficiently interested/etc. in your local EA group that they show up to meetings?
  4. (Something else?)
I'm asking the first question.
An easy win for hard decisions.

Thanks for the reply/feedback! I've realized that the length of the article is probably a problem, despite my efforts to also include a short, standalone summary up front. I just thought it would be important to include a lot of content in the article, especially since I feel like it makes some perhaps-ambitious claims (e.g., about the four components being collectively exhaustive, about the framework being useful for decision analysis). More generally, I was seeking to lay out a framework for decision analysis that could compete with/replace the INT heuri... (read more)

Has anyone actually talked to conservatives* about EA?

I have not directly asked my parents for their views on EA, but I've mentioned it before, and I've gotten the sense that they would probably also be supportive of trad-EA work like in health and development, but I suspect that they are not particularly sympathetic to the focus on x-risks—especially actual extinction from things like AI—given their religious views, which is one of the main reasons I don't tend to bring it up that much in the first place.

Has anyone actually talked to conservatives* about EA?

We're going to need to start by defining what we mean by "conservative." Speaking as someone who was occasionally taunted as a "conservative" (despite having many relatively centrist views) by people in my college debate club, I think that many progressives either struggle or simply don't care to come up with fair definitions for what a conservative is.

But to be fair, I'm not sure even the average American conservative has a great sense of how to define conservativism.

For my current purposes, a practical (but obviously hand-waving) characterization would be "someone who often votes for Republicans and would strongly consider doing so in the future". I added the word Republicans in the post to help clarify.
What We Owe the Past

"How would that make you, the ardent conservationist, feel?"

Do you mean "how would that make the dead version of you feel"? The answer is "the dead person does not feel anything." Why should we care? 

Let's be very clear: it's valid to think that the experiences of people in the past theoretically "matter" in the same fundamental way that the wellbeing of people in the future "matter": a reality in which people in the past did not suffer is a better reality than one in which people in the past did suffer. But their suffering/wellbeing while they were a... (read more)

Categorized EA Forum upvoting

I'm not sure I follow how your 20% version relates to original post/proposal about categorized voting: summaries seem reasonable/good but unrelated, and the two points about tagging just seem to be "it would be nice if we used/had more tags."

There are a lot of other points/responses I could address, but I think that it's probably better to step back and summarize my big-picture concerns rather than continue narrowing in:

  1. Time: How much time would this system require on the part of users?
  2. Quality: At the estimated time input, will the quality/consistency reac
... (read more)
Hm, ok, maybe just more tags is the solution. 1. Anyone who would opt in to switch or add voting matrices, about 30 minutes to learn on their favorite post and then similarly to one-score voting, times how many categories/subcategories they want to vote on (if you intuitively assign an upvote, you would just intuitively assign maybe 3 upvotes by clicking on images). 2. Yes, depending on the learning curve, and assuming people who would spend too much time learning would not opt in, this would be sufficiently accurate and quick. This would also provide aggregate data - however, it may be easier if experts who have seen a lot of posts make estimates. So, assuming that one to a few humans keeps awareness of posts and can assess what a person may like, then someone like an EA Librarian can recommend posts an individual would best benefit from. The recommendations can be of higher quality and more efficient. So, you may be right, the quality/time ratio may be much worse than the best alternative. Oh, yes, if there is a moderator who would have to be digitizing their perspective - plus, would probably not capture the complexity of the post by these categories - the human brain is much better in this - a reminder note can function better. But, if you upvote only one post per week by clicking once and you would have to upvote one post per week by clicking 4x4 times, on average, it is still ok. Yes, the reallocation of the points - users would be so affected they would even stop paying attention to FB or other media since there are these demands on upvoting .. Yes, at lest 10 similar perspectives can be taken as saturation, unless new perspectives emerge? Hm, I guess you are not so much about intuitive understanding of these infographics - in general, when persons develop something then it is much easier for them to orient in the summary (including an image) - so, somehow everyone would need to be involved in the development of scoring metrics. I would be much rather if
An easy win for hard decisions.

re: writing it out:
I've long been a proponent of what I'm temporarily calling the CoILS (Counterfactuality, Implementation, Linkage, Significance) framework for breaking down pros and cons into smaller analytical pieces, primarily because:

  1. At the heuristic level:
    1. It seems that breaking down complex questions into smaller pieces is generally helpful if the process does not leave out any considerations  and does not involve significant duplication (and I believe that the four considerations in the framework are indeed collectively exhaustive and mostly mu
... (read more)
For what it's worth, I really liked the chunk at the bottom of this comment (starting at "Applying it is not..." and it made it feel like a system I'd want to use, but when I clicked on your link to the original piece I bounced off of it because of the length and details. Might just be an unvirtuous thing about me, and possibly the subtleties are really important to doing this well, but I could imagine this having more reach if it was simplified and shortened.
Categorized EA Forum upvoting

I can see that you’ve put a lot of effort into this, and I think that if there were some way of reliably automating it I’d say “go for it.” And perhaps there’s just something I’m missing about all this!

But I’ll be entirely honest: this feels entirely overwhelming and overcomplicated relative to the value that it might provide, especially since it tries going for 200% implementation before we’ve even tried the prototypical 20% version: 7 vectors with 25 dimensions plus another vector with “68 values”. That’s an enormous ask.

And it’s for the purpose of enabl... (read more)

Sure, what about 20% version 1) encouraging users to write collections and summaries [] of posts that they recommend - then, if I meet someone whose work or perspectives I like or would like to respond to it can be easier to learn and contribute if there is a summary and 2) tags under Longtermism: Human survival, Human agency, Human wellbeing, Sentience wellbeing, and Non-wellbeing objectives, and 3) 'red' tags which show in grey Repugnant Conclusion and Sadistic Conclusion? Responding to your points: 1) Steep learning curve? Human minds are faster than you think? 2) No, by the time I achieve it posts will avoid scoring poorly on these metrics so it does not matter what the pictures are at any post. It is a guidance on how to write good posts, kind of. Again, human mind - can synthesize from these categories and optimize for an overall great content, considering complementarity with other post / ability to score high more uniquely? Otherwise, users may optimize for attention ... 3) Not the title - you cannot know if it is for example writing trying to catch readers and provides valuable solution- (or problem- or otherwise valuable) oriented content or a neutral title where the content motivates impulsive reasoning, for example. The tags - also not really, if something is tagged as 'Community infrastructure,' for example, you are not sure if it is a scale-up write up, innovation, problem, solution, inspiration for synthesis, directive recommendation, etc. If you are specifically looking for posts with this 'spirit' of 'I employed emotional reasoning to synthesize problems and am offering solutions that I am quite certain about in the long term and are inclusive in wellbeing,' you cannot use tags. Can you look at the author? Not really either, because there are many people who you do not know and who may be presenting certain public-facing narratives, also due to otherw
Is EA "just longtermism" now?

In my view, there some defining tension in rationalist and EA thought regarding epistemic vs. instrumental emphasis on truth: adopting a mindset of rationality/honesty is probably a good mindset—especially to challenge biases and set community standards—but it’s ultimately for instrumental purposes (although, for instrumental purposes, it might be better to think of your mindset as one of honesty/rationality, recursivity problems aside). I don’t think there is much conflict at the level of “lie about what you support”: that’s obviously going to be bad over... (read more)

Harrison D's Shortform

Working title: Collaborative Discussion Spaces and "Epistemic Jam Sessions" for Community Building Claims/Ideas?

Tl;dr: I created an example discussion space on Kialo for claims/ideas about EA community building, with the idea being that community builders could collaborate via such structured discussions. Does this seem like something that could be valuable? Is it worth making this shortform into a full post?


I’m a big fan of structured discussions, and while reading this post early last month I wondered: would it be helpful if there were some kind of... (read more)

Has this EA critique article been discussed/responded to?

See also posts with “criticism of effective altruism” tags (like this one)

Has this EA critique article been discussed/responded to?

Skimming through it, it doesn’t look like it adds anything new; it just recycles old objections like “[EAs are too stuck in their ivory tower to figure out what’s actually happening ‘on-the-ground,’ unlike anthropologists and similar researchers.]”

I can’t say where these points have been addressed, but I have to imagine they can all be found in some “FAQ/responses to frequent objections against EA” somewhere.

1Noah Starbuck21d
Thanks. I’ll do a search for “common objections” articles.
Nuclear Fusion Energy coming within 5 years

Isn’t there some meme about fusion always being right around the corner, but never materializing? Of course, I think it may be reasonable to expect fusion some time this century, but a “within 5 years” headline seems really bullish.

I think a few things that are different this time are that 1. It's a company, not just a research group. 2. The timeline is actually 2 years. They could be lying or over optimistic, but assuming they aren't lying, they probably have a somewhat concrete path to net electricity in mind, or at least have good reason to believe they're very close. They haven't given themselves a lot of time for further R&D. Previous projections probably naively extrapolated 10+ years out.
My bargain with the EA machine

A perhaps-relevant concept for this discussion: Ikigai

Solving the replication crisis (FTX proposal)

Would the Institute for Replication incorporate insights/methods from replication markets?

Possibly! Anna Dreber is on the board of both.
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