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HLI’s Mental Health Programme Evaluation Project - Update on the First Round of Evaluation

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My view is at current time there are 3 main and overlapping issues going on ---COVID, global warming, and civil unrest about racism and policing (which sort of started in USA but now is global).

These all will impact 'mental health'.

I agree with another comment that some of the graphs are not that easy to decipher. Its interesting that while most of the 'mechanical ' and 'intuitive' measures agree or correlate, at the end of the list you have some mental interventions in which the mechanical scores are like -1 (unlike the other interventions) while the intuitive ones are still around 7--similar to the other intuitive scores --- (so they anti-correlate ). I wonder why these studies are so different (i can guess).)

I have seen 2 recent very well researched and hence convincing studies regarding the effect of social interventions on COVID pandemic (from teams of researchers in UK--imperial college, oxford, Stanford, Harvard, etc.) which came to opposite conclusions regarding the effect of 'lockdowns'. One study said lockdowns had no effect; the other said they prevented possibly 100,000s of deaths. The graphs in these studies were not easy to interpret either, for me.


Since i dabble in 'complexity theory' , I dislike the use of the term 'mechanical model' here though its well defined---( cost X effectiveness) . i just don't view it as what i call mechanical--though it can be interpreted that way. .

i view 'mechanical ' as referring to a newtonian classical physics type model. Many people into complexity theory (some experts and some amateurs) reject what they call 'mechanical models'. They prefer what they call nonequilibrium, open system models with emergent properties . I personally don't think there is any difference between these. Terms like 'mechanical', 'emergent' or 'intuitive' almost become like labels, brand names, ideologies, or 'races'. Its a fuzzy concept unless you agree on the definitions---like mental illness.

Lant Pritchett's "smell test": is your impact evaluation asking questions that matter?

I was only commenting on the particular wording of the 'smell test' in devlopemntal economics---i use a smell test to decide if i need to throw food away which i try not to do, or wash clothes , or if somehow a dead mouse is in my apt --i leave mice alone but they are poisoned by what they eat or die of old age--i dont think they live very long--maybe 2 years

developmental economics (definately not my area) i associate with jeffrey sachs, william easterly, amartya sen, and partha dasgupta. one can add jagdish baghwati and more than i can remember. there are more recent ones. i just know these from books and articles. (there are math modelers, anti-globalization/neoliberalism activists, etc --they all have books and articles).

Effective Altruism and Free Riding

That article has a good reference list but these are mostly of historical interest . I do reccomend reading the article and looking at the references . (it might take 80,000 hours to read them all in full so i do not reccomend that --just read the abstracts , and if you want look at the intros, conclusions, scan main text --especially equations----one can say in 1 equation more than in 1000 words, but the equation has 1000 words behind it, and references. )

Michael Taylor's 1976 book 'the possibility of cooperation' discussed this theme, but he used a sort of outmoded game theoretic approach which has been mostly replaced by a different formalism (which derives from physics and theoretical and evolutionary biology--behavioral economics and Rawlsian utilitarianism or other variants doesn't come close to that formalism.)

The conclusion to the article does come to the correct conclusion. EA movement could easily just do the greatest good for the smallest number. In ancient europe the educated and better off classes barricaded themselves into forts, castles and mansions. There was the bubonic plague. But this in the long term in a sense saved many others in the future --created the 'enlightenment'.

I think with current modern knowledge that approach is unnecesary. i cannot wholeheartedly reccomend this group because they also have limited view of cooperation but they do have more currrent thought in this area. www.santafe.edu or https://www.santafe.edu

Are there good EA projects for helping with COVID-19?

https://sciencehouse.wordpress.com has a more recent study and discussion of 2 other studies at imperial college london and oxford. Science Magazine AAAS also has a whole issue (march 27) on topic. COVID-19 appears to be a real problem but time will tell. (My area has many scientists, but also many poor and uneducated people, so there are lots of 'conspiracy theories' floating around --'viruses of the mind' --there are academic papers on these as well, mostly written by physicists.)

My point 4 i actually view as the main one, unless you are actually developing vaccines in a laboratory or testing them in the field. I have done a tiny bit of lab biology and field biology as a student a but its not my area )

In that sense my comment was 'off topic'---i was talking about prevention, not cures. A term commonly used now is to avoid 'hot spots' --the temperature or incidence of the virus is not the same everywhere, so while it may seem biased, avoid the hot spots . You can say hi to your neighbor, but you cant hug them.

https://johncarlosbaez.wordpress.com may have more discussion that is more relevant to your post.

Free E-Book: Social Movements: An Introduction, 2nd Edition

On the same theme https://radicalecologicaldemocracy.org/pluriverse .

there was a free online copy and there may still be. its a collection of 100 essays by people associated with various social movements (some of which have been around for decades) mostly dealing with the global south, environmental issues and also ones relevant to 'developed countries' such as USA .

i think it overlaps with the Oxford handbook. both of these to me are like reading an encyclopedia or history book.

(There are more social movements than the 100 in the book, but they overlap alot, so in a sense even if the 'missing' movements are not in the book they are mostly implicity there. I think there may have been some favoritism into who was included in the book, and who was excluded.

Many of these 'movements' or groups are fairly short lived --they last for a few years and dissapear, often partly due to internal conflicts. )


I never joined any social movements except for the green party, and i no longer attend their events due to internal strife. These small groups tend to attract certain individuals who try to take them over and turn them into cults of personality, though they do it using the rhetoric of social justice, intersectionality, ecology, democracy, etc.

Jacobin magazine (now sort of affiliated with DSA and a big supporter of Bernie S., though it had its roots in ISO , and has had a sort of constantly shifting ideology ---they can't decide which form of socialism they prefer ) was among the groups involved in the local political or 'social movement' scene--sort of by mistake i get their magazine .

(it has interesting histories of leftist movements in USA and internationally--written by academics and grad students primarily (almost never in sciences), but some of it i view as redundant leftist drivel.) Its a younger version of the nation mag, and a high brow version of CPUSA (i've seen old copies of that) , with excellent production and graphics. Their articles are usually written by various academics affiliated with universities that range from fairly 'low level' city colleges to the ivy league. )

This book and the Oxford one are also relevant to a May 2019 discussion on the EA forum about 'leftist critiques of EA movement'---which i thought was fairly thorough. ( i looked at that partly since i'm 'self-quarantining'. My area is sort of on 'lockdown' , so i skim various math models of this issue, and then look at lighter stuff.)

The may 2019 discussion pointed out both criticisms of EA as well as its defenses. eg 'leftists' dislike the word 'charity'--it sounds paternalistic; and in the area i live, 'US imperialism' and 'capitalism' are sort of code or trigger words, or phrases, or rallying crys.

'Earning to give' does remind one of Andrew Carnegie (I had a relative who went to CMU which is a top school for AI research--carnegie and mellon gave their money away) , the Rockefellors (Rockefellor U), , the Sackler family (art gallerys, and credited in part for the US opiate epidemic) , and Henry Paulson (plans to donate his 4 Billion $ wealth to environmental causes which he earned on wall street. )

(I knew someone who made a fair amount of money on wall street, who also gave away a large fraction of it, but part of it was based on cigarette companies. He simply seperated his money making investment decisions from his values, so he invested in whatever was most profitable. And then he gave alot of that money away to good causes. He also didnt approve of smoking even though he invested in the companies. ).

(he was actually from a small town background, so didn't have a 'systems' point of view-he was just a good stock picker. I.e. he didn't notice he may have been 'stealing from the poor to get rich', and then acting as a kind of 'robin hood' to 'take from the rich and give to the poor'. (he also donated to bernie's 1st campaign against Hilary). )

I'm not really affiliated with any 'leftist movements' anymore (though i used to attend protests organized by many of these groups, which range from 'moderate DSA', green party, or 'progressive democratic ' groups , and environmentalist and anti-poverty groups , to ones with more 'radical views' (all kinds of socialists, anarchists, and others---many of whom did not get along with each other) .

However since i think i am familiar enough with many of these 'leftist' groups i would say for every criticism of EA one can make there is another one equal to that can be made of many of these groups.

(I actually view some of them as sort of modern versions of stalinists--i call them 'stalinists- lite'.

Just as i view the 'alt-right' as the 'lite' versions of nazis and kkk. (they don't dresss in white hoods and gowns anymore, or as storm troopers--they dress in khakis and suits and ties--look like college students or government buerocrats.

The stalinist-lite 'leftist' critics of US imperialism, etc. seem to have strong affiliations with RT state sponsored media 'russia today' and its 'Sputnik' radio version--they have their own radio shows or appear as guests on those stations, as well as with China. They are big critics of US presence in Afghanistan but never mention Russia also invaded Afghanistan. )

I think the differences between EAs, 'leftists' and people like myself are cultural and educational primarily. Many EA's seem to have a philosophy bacground, so for example they use the philosophical definition of Utilitarianism rather than the ones i've seen in economics , which are mathematical (Hilary Greaves of Oxford and associated with EA, who also has a background in physics, uses the formalism of utilitarianism closest to the one i try to use--though I am not at her mathematical level.) 'Leftists' tend to get their information more from either 'radical media' or in college classes in humanites or semi-social sciences like 'cultural marxism' and 'intersectionality studies'. I get my views from my backgroun in ecology and lived experiences in fairly diverse environments--so you have to keep your language simple, even if you are familiar with technical dialects. (There are in my view at least 3 or 4 different dialects for 'systems science' or 'systemic approaches'--i view them as equivalent but they range in mathematical complexity.)

AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement

I've seen and liked that book. But i don't think there really is enough information about risks (eg earth being hit by a comet or meteor that kills everything) to really say much---maybe if cosmology makes major advances or in other fields one can say somerthing but that might takes centuries.

Lant Pritchett's "smell test": is your impact evaluation asking questions that matter?

I can't really tell what the article is about, but it appears to be saying that devoting alot of resources and talent to academic economists to do rigorous RCT evalutions of programs is 'innefective' or 'inneficient' (a waste). (I think the recent noble econ prizes were for this---so this might be critique of them.) I think the same point is often made of alot of rigorous economics---many view these as primarily aesthetic or mathematical excercizes which some economists value more than developement or economic policy.

I think there is a place for aesthetics, mathematics, RCTs and evaluations of them, as well as other forms of policy research and interventions.

But you sort of have to figure out what mix is the best.

I also don't think the 'smell tests' are well worded. I think academic specialties often have their own dialects (as does EA) and they are often mutually almost incomprehnsible. Ecological economists and neoclassiclas often have different dialects, and the same theorem in math can be proven at times many ways, but people can only understand some of them,.

International Relations; States, Rational Actors, and Other Approaches (Policy and International Relations Primer Part 4)

I didn't notice this reply to my comment, but today i did. (as an aside i notice i have -33 votes and +55 votes for my comments. it would be nice if EA world could tolerate diversity of opinions--so far i'm still above zero and i don't want to start a war. but if people cannot disagree agreeably i'm perfectly willing to go somewhere else--and it won't be silicon valley. )

While i dislike the term 'intelligent', i would call your comment or answer a very intelligent and well informed reply to my comment.

Since you mentioned Brexit, in USA we have a similar issue---- the democratic primaries (as you likely know, though my impression is you are not in USA) --there are not really any single peaked preferences here though it has been reduced to Biden vs Bernie and other --possibly alot of nonvoters.)

I agree that 'the map is not the territory'. One needs to revise the maps as you go through the territory. there is a tradeoff --- do you follow the map you have and keep going, or spend time revising the map and take a different path?

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