All of Jack's Comments + Replies

Who's hiring? (May-September 2022)
Answer by JackJun 10, 202220

LEEP is working to prevent childhood lead poisoning, worldwide. We’re hiring for multiple roles, and are going to be scaling fast over the next few years! We’re looking for dynamic, high initiative team members to help roll out our intervention in new countries, and help solve this problem.

We currently have open applications for the positions of: 
Head of Operations (application link here)
Programs Managers (multiple positions available, application link here

If you’re interested in learning more about either of these positions, or about LEEP you ... (read more)

Identifying the most pressing global problems for an Australian policy context

Ahhhh I see! Thanks for clarifying! 

And thanks again - this was a great read.

Identifying the most pressing global problems for an Australian policy context

Really interesting thoughts! Thanks for putting this together. So useful and practical to have a priority list of this kind! 

I was quite surprised that policy around nuclear weapons isn't rated even higher. Looking at your spreadsheet, I think the 'Australia ROI' score for nuclear war might be quite strongly underrated at present.  It is currently rated on that metric as a 2 (out of 5) meaning "Compared to other countries, Australia has little control and influence on this issue. Australia also has a poor international reputation on this issue an... (read more)

5rumtin4mo
This is a great point, Jack. I agree, I think we should change it to a 3. In fact, I wrote an op-ed [https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/7649870/australia-can-lead-on-reducing-global-nuclear-risk/?cs=14246] last month arguing that Australia could even lead globally on nuclear risk. So you would have thought we should have rated it as a 3 to begin with! Our instinct when putting nuclear risk (and other issues) at a 2 was not to over-egg Australia's role. Australia punches above its weight on many issues, but then seems also over-interpret its relative importance. We were probably too wary of falling into that trap. But on nuclear risk, we do have some comparative advantages that would put us a bit higher on our rating scale.
Identifying the most pressing global problems for an Australian policy context

This was a great post! Really enjoyed reading it! 

That said, the ordering in the shortlist in this post is a touch confusing - it doesn't seem to map to the total scores in your spreadsheet? e.g. AI scores as equal 4th-6th most important in your spreadsheet, but is listed 1st in the short list. Meanwhile nuclear war and pandemic risk score as equal 1st-3rd, but are listed 9th and 10th in the shortlist. I wonder if it would make more sense to list the options that scored the highest first (as presumably, they should be prioritised the most)?

2rumtin4mo
Hi Jack, Thanks for the comment! We decided to list it alphabetically in the post. Although some shortlisted items rated higher overall, we felt that the post shouldn't make too hard of a distinction - mostly because it's a relatively simple rating system, so we didn't want to give the impression that we are definitively rating some as higher than others. I'll edit the post just to make that clear.
2Jenny_Xiao2y
Thanks, Jack!
Big List of Cause Candidates

Interesting list! One important cause area that I think may have missed is preventing/avoiding stable longterm totalitarianism. 

Toby Ord and Bryan Caplan have both written on this - see  "the Precipice" for Ord's discussion and "The Totalitarian Threat" in Bostrom's "Global Catastrophic Risks" for Caplan's.

It may be worth adding these to the list as it seems that totalitarianism is fairly widely accepted as a cause candidate. Thanks for the post as well, lots of interesting ideas and links in here!

7MichaelA2y
For readers who may find the following useful: * Here [https://docs.google.com/document/d/1QvwOwNH_l0DaWfMU91gcO_v222U-a6zR/edit] is a freely accessible version of Caplan's chapter * Posts tagged totalitarianism [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/totalitarianism], and some posts tagged global dystopia [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/tag/global-dystopia], are relevant * 80k write briefly about this here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/xoxbDsKGvHpkGfw9R/problem-areas-beyond-80-000-hours-current-priorities#Risks_of_stable_totalitarianism]
AMA: Jason Crawford, The Roots of Progress

Thank you for these interesting answers. Do you think the creation of new fields is also subject to diminishing returns? e.g. are new fields harder to find as well? Or do you think that only technologies are subject to diminishing returns? 

On this note, do you think progress is likely to be open to us indefinitely, or would you expect that eventually we will reach a level of technological maturity where all meaningful low-hanging fruit (be they individual technologies or S curves) have been picked and there is little further technological progress? If so, why? If not, why not?

6jasoncrawford2y
“Are new fields getting harder to find?” I think this is the trillion-dollar question! I don't have an answer yet though. Is progress open indefinitely? I think there is probably at least a theoretic end to progress, but it's so unimaginably far away that for our purposes today we should consider progress as potentially infinite. There are still an enormous number of things to learn and invent.
Introducing LEEP: Lead Exposure Elimination Project

Ah! I can definitely see how that might have been confusing, thanks for letting us know. I'll make sure that this is reworded to be as clear as possible. Good catch!

And that sounds fantastic. It's likely we'll seek to hire a dedicated operations staff member as we scale, perhaps in our second or third year. In case you'd like to keep an eye out for when such positions crop up, all future job postings for LEEP will be announced on our website, in our newsletter, and on the 80,000 Hours Jobs board.

Book on Civilisational Collapse?
Answer by JackOct 08, 20206

The Collapse of Complex Societies by Joseph Tainter is fantastic. It tries to establish a general theory behind past civilisational collapses. It looks at economic factors which lead societies into decline and argues that diminishing returns are a predictor and cause of collapse.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed by Jared Diamond is very good too. It focuses on case studies of societies which have collapsed for ecological reasons.

1Milton2y
Thanks! :)
Introducing LEEP: Lead Exposure Elimination Project

Hi Misha! I totally agree. Tractability could make a significant difference on the expected cost-effectiveness of a particular country. In the coming weeks we’ll be having a full blog post on our site unpacking our country selection in detail, but I can give you a quick summary here.

To identify the most viable target countries we’ve assessed every country worldwide (with more than 300,000 births in the last 5 years), and ranked them on a number of factors. These factors included size of lead burden, absence of lead paint regulation, stabili... (read more)

Introducing LEEP: Lead Exposure Elimination Project

Hi Linch, Great question. Probability estimates about the future are always difficult - we can give you some loose indications of what we expect, though these should be taken with a grain of salt.

1. A two month timeline may be hard to estimate, as things can often run more slowly when starting in a new country. However, we can give more confident estimates on a three month timeline (which offers some buffer room).

We’d attach a reasonably high probability to having enough information to make these decisions within the next 3 months (~80%). Our deci... (read more)

3ElliotJDavies2y
In super simple terms, how does lobbying work for one of these countries? Is it as simple as getting the phone with a local politician and going from there?
Introducing LEEP: Lead Exposure Elimination Project

Hi Matt, thanks for your comment! We haven’t looked into this, but if we do we’ll let you know. As yet, we have not focused on water as a source of lead exposure because it is less of a contributor in lower-income countries where lead burdens are highest.

Introducing LEEP: Lead Exposure Elimination Project

Hi Brian! Thanks for commenting. Here is a link which lists countries which do not currently have lead paint regulation. We didn’t come across any ranking of most promising countries to target, but we have collated this information ourselves. We’ll be publicly releasing our country selection spreadsheet in the coming weeks and this will likely provide you with the information that you need.

Until then, I can pass on some relevant information about our findings. From our research, we found that the Philippines does currently have legislation (a... (read more)

3BrianTan2y
Yup, this was useful Jack! We are wondering though if EcoWaste Coalition would still be a cost-effective and/or evidence-based charity that we should recommend donors who want to give to local Philippine charities. I am assuming that we can still recommend them, but we are finding it hard to model their cost-effectiveness given that it's a policy charity, so we may have to rely on other types of rationale or argumentation. I'd love to hear any thoughts you may have on how we might be able to still assess whether or not it's still cost-effective (or effective in general) for local donors to donate to the EcoWaste Coalition. Thanks!