For years, LessWrong and the broader rationalist community has faced similar criticism:
Look at these nerds trying to tally up biases in a naïve way that will only lead them further astray from properly understanding themselves and the world.
What does "rational" even mean, how can we define it? How arrogant to name the whole movement "rationalism".
This weird stuff about quantum mechanics sounds crazy, like the kind of thing cults believe.
(Misconceptions about "rationality" meaning being cold/emotionless like Spock from Star Trek)
As with this... (read more)
EA is a movement quite rational
with three simple lessons extractable:
The goals they selected,
weren't only neglected,
but also important and tractable!
. . .
There once was a program designed
To benefit all of mankind
But then as it learned
it treacherously turned,
What a shame that it wasn't aligned.
It's important that nobody has heard
of some dangerous new infohazards.
So you're lucky this time,
that "hazard" won't rhyme,
Who can forget Frank Lantz' ditty about alignment and orthogonality from the clicker game "Universal Paperclips"?
There was an AI made of dust,
Whose poetry gained it man's trust,
If is follows ought,
It'll do what they thought.
In the end we all do what we must.
Maybe it should be an adversarial collaboration between me and somebody like Erich who knows a little more about programming! But sure; I will try to get a draft together and post it soon.
It seems doubtful to me that FOSS development in general would be an amazingly impactful way to help the world. But maybe there are ways we can identify specific development projects that are much more impactful than others. A couple of rambling thoughts below. (Disclaimer! although I do write lots of C++ code for my aerospace engineering job, I am basically a rando and I don't know that much about the FOSS movement. Take everything I say with a big grain of salt.)
For every example of someone making a great outsized contribution (Bitcoin, Linux), ar
Fair! There are certainly a lot of problems with a pure logarithmic model.
I would certainly expect there to be threshold effects around subsistence. I also wonder if there are other kinds of threshold effects having to do with the median income of your local society (distinct from social-comparison effects). In America today, large parts of the economy are arguably captured by regulatory schemes that suppress market competition and promote rent-seeking. https://capturedeconomy.com/ In a world where housing was cheap and plentiful, education and other... (read more)
Surreal and awesome. "Phobic Reactor" feels like something straight out of my favorite horror games / stories. I feel like an expanded version of this concept -- humanity discovers that emotional valence of qualia is a fundamental property of physics, and starts experimenting with new ways to use and produce it (creating hyper-concentrated experiences not found in nature, plus ways to combine valences to create more complex states of experience) -- could make a really great Ted-Chiang-style sci-fi tale.
But over the long-term, you can't really have zero income -- you need some basic level of resources just to survive at subsistence levels. Subsistence income is probably around $400 per year, although of course it doesn't have to be formal taxable income -- it could be foraged food or whatever. This is true today -- few people even in India or Africa have incomes less than a few hundred dollars, because basically if you make less than a dollar per day, you die: https://80000hours.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/1200x-1.png . Something like this is also t... (read more)
I loved the graph of cumulative human lives in this post, and I think it should probably be a much more common way of displaying historical data (it strikes me as closer to what we often want than the common practice of just putting everything on a log scale).
It's interesting that there were about the same total number of foragers (40 billion people from 3 million years ago to 10,000 BC) as farmers (40 billion from 10,000 BC to the 1800s), and that there have already been almost 20 billion industrials/moderns since 1960. At current birth rates (about 140 ... (read more)
Everybody loves to hate on farmers, and I don't disagree, but I think they're often ignoring a crucial question: was farming much more stable than foraging? I think you should discount farmers' greater misery by looking at the overall rates of death in each civilization -- it's possible that doing so would make farmers look better.
Which life would you prefer:
The Progressive Policy Institute and the Neoliberal Project are one example of an EA-adjacent political movement/organization/project. Can you list some others? Here is my own vague high-level list of some political groups that seem EA-adjacent (I don't know much about individual think-tanks or anything):
Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein, co-founders of Vox, have both talked about EA / rationalism in some of their writing, and interviewed on EA / rationalist podcasts. And of course Vox hosts Future Perfect, an explicitly EA column (although the rest of
There's a private facebook group you can sign up for that has some pretty solid EA memes . I love it, but I always figured it was private for a reason -- EA is full of lots of counterintuitive philosophical ideas that people find off-putting (like... utilitarianism alone is already off-putting to most normies), and EA seems to be very obsessed with having a good/prestigious reputation as a responsible, serious movement. Our jokes are mostly about how weird EA is, so we might want to keep our jokes to ourselves if we are desperately trying to seem normal... (read more)
There are several Yudkowsky stories that involve EA-adjacent elements, although perhaps all of them are too well-known to count -- "Three Worlds Collide" is probably the most complex exploration of abstract ethical ideas, although it's more making a statement about the complexity of human value systems than about taking action in an EA direction. It's also a complex multi-chapter story too long to read in one sitting.
There are also Yudkowsky's "Dath Ilan" stories, which take place in a semi-utopian world where civilization is much better at coordination. ... (read more)
If funding from the Gates Foundation is having the perverse effect of allowing them to ignore scientific criticism, it also sounds like an interesting case study in charitable spending/inventives gone wrong.
On the bright side, IHME isn't our only or even our main source of pandemic predictions. The CDC tracks numerous covid prediction projects (although the CDC has generally done badly too, and is definitely not going to be winning any forecasting awards). In recognition of these failures, the CDC is creating a new forecasting center staffed by what seem... (read more)
Interesting, if as you say a bit unrealistic. If I'm interpreting your graph correctly (although I feel like I am probably not; I'm definitely not an economist), you end up describing an endowment-like structure, where if you're going to live forever, you'll want to end up giving away a constant amount of money each year (your b=0 line in the chart), or maybe an amount of money that represents something like a constant fraction of the growing world economy?? (Your b = (r-p)/r line?) It might be helpful for you to provide a layman-accessible summary, if ... (read more)
"The top 5% of posts accounted for about half of the views and view time."
Looks like the EA forum, just like the overall project of effective altruism itself, is a hits-based business!
Yes, I was definitely thinking of stuff along the lines of "help fund the creation of a toy fund and work out the legal kinks, portfolio design, governance mechanisms, etc", in addition to pure blog-post-style research into the idea of investing-to-give.
Admittedly it's an odd position for me to be pessimistic about patient philanthropy itself but still pretty psyched about setting up the experiment. I guess for the argument to go through that funding the creation of the PPF is a great idea, it relies on one or more of the following being true:
Hi! I was one of the downvoters on your earlier post about Israel/Palestine, but looking at the link again now, I see that nobody ever gave a good explanation for why the post got such a negative reception. I'm sorry that we gave such a hostile reaction without explaining. I can't speak for all EAs, but I suspect that some of the main reasons for hesitation might be:
Two approaches not mentioned in the article that I would advocate:
Giving to global priorities research.
You mentioned patient philanthropy (whether a few years or centuries), and one of the main motivations of waiting to give is to benefit from a more-developed landscape of EA thought. If the sophistication of EA thought is a key bottleneck, why not contribute today to global priorities research efforts, thus accelerating the pace of intellectual development that other patient philanthropists are waiting on?
I'm not confident that giving to global prio
I appreciate that you're going meta and considering such a full mix of re-granting options, rather than just giving to charities themselves as past lottery winners have. Your point about not having as much local knowledge as the big granting organizations makes a lot of sense. Longview, the LTFF, and the EA Infrastructure fund all seem like worthy targets, although I don't know much about them in particular. Here are a few thoughts on the other approaches:
Paying someone to help decide:
This idea doesn't make much sense to me. After all, figuring out th... (read more)
Yes, I was just going to ask if anyone had looked at longtermist arguments in a similar way, or even just compiled a similar list of any short, punchy longtermist pitches that are out there. I've been thinking of printing out some pamphlets or something to distribute around town when I go for walks, and it might be nice to be able to represent multiple EA pillars on one pamplet.
I also think it would be interesting to see results on longtermism because it's a much stranger, less familiar idea (more different than other charity messaging people have heard before), so it might be harder to explain in a short format, but there might be correspondingly big wins from introducing people to such a totally new concept.
Two points in response:
The whole point of Agnes' essay is to showcase an infinite regression problem: the basis for meaning in our lives can't rest solely on the existence of future generations, because in that case the fact that the universe is finite would force us to all become committed nihilists right now, today. Consider:
If life for the last generation is nothing but a horrifying, meaningless void leading to "complete ethical and political collapse", then surely life for the second-to-last generation would also be meaningless? (After all, who'
With your aggressive tone, it's perhaps understandable why you've run into mod trouble on LessWrong. But as a simple existence proof, the forecasting techniques and training materials described by Phillip Tetlock in books like "Superforcasting" have been repeatedly shown to somewhat improve people's skill at making all kinds of predictions across varied subject areas. Forecasting isn't the same thing as LessWrong-style "rationality", but it's close -- both are general reasoning skills that focus on avoiding bias and understanding probability, rather than... (read more)
Nice. Foolish of me to nitpick an executive summary -- it's a summary!
Speaking of comparing to alternatives, I can't resist making a pedantic note for posterity that the fact about "per DALY lost, spending on HIV is 150x higher than spending on mental health" is not necessarily a sign of irrational priorities. After all, HIV is contagious in a way that mental health problems mostly aren't!
I'm sure Taiwan is spending much more on covid-19 prevention right now than they are on cancer treatment per DALY being lost (they have almost no covid cases but are willing to constantly apply severe anti-covid restrictions), but it's a r... (read more)
Factoring this problem a little, I see two elements that basically multiply together to answer your question:A. Going forwards, what is the likelihood of new pandemics arising? 1. IMO, the animals/farming angle, and the "people travel more and the world is more connected than ever" angles won't change too dramatically going forward, so I'm skipping them because I think any effect there will be dominated by... 2. What happens to biotechnology / virology over the next century? i. Of cour... (read more)
Yes, that's what I'm thinking. As I'm continuing to develop this thought (sorry for being a bit repetitive in my posts), perhaps the main things that determine where the world might fall between scenarios (1) and (2) are:
-How hard it is to establish stricter global governance: Is there an easy proliferation bottleneck that can be controlled, like ICBM technology or uranium mines? Can the leading nations get along well enough to cooperate on the shared goals of global governance? When everyone has nukes, how easy is it to boss around small... (read more)
Well, if we're starting in 1950, not a single nation has ICBMs, and few countries even have long-range bombers. I'm also not sure how many nukes we're supposed to imagine everyone gets / how quickly they can be made. So the world would have a little bit of time to settle into the new equilibrium -- I agree that if every country in the world was magically gifted an arsenal equal to the USA's current nuclear forces, the world would probably end in fire pretty quickly.
To keep things simple, I was also treating this question as purely an alternate history ex... (read more)
Not putting any probabilities on these ideas yet, just brainstorming:
I expect that some dynamics would be similar to nuclear strategy in the real world: nuclear weapons would make wars less common, but the few wars that did happen would have a risk of being much more devastating. If you're Saddam Hussein and you're pondering whether to start the Iran-Iraq war, maybe you hold back for fear of a nuclear exchange, and start your own local cold war instead. I'd expect that maybe we have only a small fraction as many wars, but some of the remaining wars would... (read more)