Prepare for Counterfactual Donation Matching on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020

Ah great, I have pledged. Is this new this year? Or maybe I didn't fill out the pledge last year; I don't remember.

Prepare for Counterfactual Donation Matching on Giving Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020

Would it make sense for the Giving Tuesday organization to send out an annual reminder email? I have re-categorized all of my EA newsletters, and so they don't go to my main inbox. Maybe most people have calendar events, or the like, set up. Maybe though for people who almost forgot about Giving Tuesday (like me) a reminder email could be useful!

Timeline Utilitarianism

The question of how to aggregate over time may even have important consequences for population ethics paradoxes. You might be interested in reading Vanessa Kosoy's theory here in which she sums an individual's utility over time with an increasing penalty over life-span. Although I'm not clear on the justification for these choices, the consequences may be appealing to many: Vanessa, herself, emphasizes the consequences on evaluating astronomical waste and factory farming.

Some learnings I had from forecasting in 2020

Agreed, I've been trying to help out a bit with Matt Barnett's new question here. Feedback period is still open, so chime in if you have ideas!

I suspect most Metaculites are accustomed to paying attention to how a question's operationalization deviates from its intent FWIW. Personally, I find the Montezuma's revenge criterion quite important without which the question would be far from AGI.

My intent with bringing up this question, was more to ask about how Linch thinks about the reliability of long-term predictions with no obvious frequentist-friendly track record to look at.

Some learnings I had from forecasting in 2020

Sure at an individual level deference usually makes for better predictions, but at a community level deference-as-the-norm can dilute the weight of those who are informed and predict differently from the median. Excessive numbers of deferential predictions also obfuscate how reliable the median prediction is, and thus makes it harder for others to do an informed update on the median.

As you say, it's better if people contribute information where their relative value-add is greatest, so I'd say it's reasonable for people to have a 2:1 ratio of questions on which they deviate from the median to questions on which they follow the median. My vague impression is that the ratio may be lower -- especially for people predicting on <1 year time horizon events. I think you, linch and other heavier Metaculus users may have a more informed impression here though, so would be happy to see disagreement.

I think it would be interesting to have a Metaculus on which for every prediction you have to select a general category for your update e.g. "New Probability Calculation", "Updated to Median", "Information source released", etc. Seeing the various distributions for each would likely be quite informative.

Some learnings I had from forecasting in 2020

Do your opinion updates extend from individual forecasts to aggregated ones? In particular how reliable do you think is the Metaculus median AGI timeline?

On the one hand, my opinion of Metaculus predictions worsened as I saw how the 'recent predictions' showed people piling in on the median on some questions I watch. On the other hand, my opinion of Metaculus predictions improved as I found out that performance doesn't seem to fall as a function of 'resolve minus closing' time (see https://twitter.com/tenthkrige/status/1296401128469471235). Are there some observations which have swayed your opinion in similar ways?

AMA: Tobias Baumann, Center for Reducing Suffering

What kinds of evidence and experience could induce you to update for/against the importance of severe suffering?

Do you believe that exposure to or experience of severe suffering would cause the average EA to focus more heavily on it?

Edit: Moving the question "Thinking counterfactually, what evidence and experiences caused you to have the views you do on severe suffering?" down here because it looks like other commenters already asked another version of it.

What FHI’s Research Scholars Programme is like: views from scholars

Out of the rejection pool, are there any avoidable failure modes that come to mind -- i.e. mistakes made by otherwise qualified applicants which caused rejection? For example, in a previous EA-org application I found out that I ought to have included more detail regarding potential roadblocks to my proposed research project. This seemed like a valuable point in retrospect, but somewhat unexpected given my experience with research proposals outside of EA.

EDIT: (Thanks to Rose for for answering this question individually and agreeing to let me share her answer here) Failure modes include: Describing the value of proposed research ideas too narrowly instead of discussing long-term value. Apparent over-confidence in the description of ideas, i.e. neglecting potential road-bumps and uncertainty.

My Meta-Ethics and Possible Implications for EA

Thanks for the lively discussion! We've covered a lot of ground, so I plan to try to condense what was said into a follow-up blog post making similar points as the OP but taking into account all of your clarifications.

I’m not sure how broadly you’re construing ‘meta-reactions’, i.e. would this include basically any moral view which a person might reach based on the ordinary operation of their intuitions and reason and would all of these be placed on an equal footing?

'Meta-reactions' are the subset of our universalizable preferences which express preferences over other preferences (and/or their relation). What it means to be 'placed on equal footing' is that all of these preferences are comparable. Which of them will take precedence in a certain judgement depends on the relative intensity of feeling for each preference. This stands in contrast to views such as total utilitarianism in which certain preferences are considered irrational and are thus overruled independently of the force with which we feel them.

more or less any moral argument could result from a process of people reflecting on their views and the views of others and seeking consistency

The key point here is 'seeking consistency': my view is that the extent to which consistency constraints are morally relevant is contingent on the individual. Any sort of consistency only carries force insofar as it is one of the given individual's universalizable preferences. In a way, this view does ‘leave everything as it is’ for non-philosophers' moral debates. I also have no problem with a population ethicist who sees eir task as finding functions which satisfy certain population ethics intuitions. My view only conflicts with population ethics and animal welfare ethics insofar as ey take eir conclusions as a basis for language policing. E.g. When an ethicist claims eir preferred population axiology has implications on understanding everyday uses of moral language.

I have in mind cases of moral thinking, such as the example I gave where we override disgust responses based on reflecting that they aren’t actually morally valuable.

Within my framework we may override disgust responses by e.g. observing that they are less strong than our other responses, or by observing that -- unlike our other responses -- they have multiple meta-reactions stacked against them (fairness, 'call to universality', etc.) and we feel those meta-reactions more strongly. I do not endorse coming up with a theory about moral value and then overriding our disgust responses because of the theoretical elegance or epistemological appeal of that theory. I'm not sure whether you have in mind the former or the latter case?

My Meta-Ethics and Possible Implications for EA

[From a previous DM comment]

For moral talk to be capable of serving this practical purpose we just need some degree of people being inclined to respond to the same kinds of things or to be persuaded to share the same attitudes. But this doesn’t require any particularly strong, near-universal consensus or consensus on a particular single thing being morally good/bad. [...] This seems compatible with very, very widespread disagreement in fact: it might be that people are disposed to think that some varying combinations of “fraternity, blood revenge, family pride, filial piety, gavelkind, primogeniture, friendship, patriotism, tribute, diplomacy, common ownership, honour, confession, turn taking, restitution, modesty, mercy, munificence, arbitration, mendicancy, and queuing”

Sorry, I should've addressed this directly. The SMB-community picture is somewhat misleading. In reality, you likely have partial overlap in SMB and the intersection of your whole community of friends is less (but does include pain aversion). Moral disagreement attains a particular level of meaningfulness when both speakers share SMB relevant to their topic of debate. I now realize that my use of 'ostensive' was mistaken. I meant to say, as perhaps has already become clear, that SMB lends substance to moral disagreement. SMB plays a role in defining moral disagreement, but, as you say, SMB likely plays a lesser role when it comes to using moral language outside of disagreement.

It doesn’t seem to me like we have any particular reason to privilege these basic intuitive responses as foundational, in cases where they conflict with our more abstruse reasoning.

If we agree that SMB plays a crucial role in lending meaning to moral disagreement, then we can understand the nature of moral disagreement without appeal to any 'abstruse reasoning'. I argue that what we do when disagreeing is emphasizing various parts of SMB to the other. In this picture of moral language = universalizable preferences + elicit disapproval + SMB subset, where does abstruse reasoning enter the picture? It only enters when a philosopher sees a family resemblance between moral disagreement and other sorts of epistemological disagreement and thus feels the urge to bring in talk of abstruse reasoning. As described in the OP, for non-philosophers abstruse reasoning only matters as mediated by meta-reactions. In effect, reasoning constraints enter the picture as a subset of our universalizable preferences, but as such there's no basis for them to override our other object-level universalizable preferences. Of course, I use talk of preferences here loosely; I do believe that these preferences have vague intensities which may sometimes be compared. E.g. someone may feel their meta-reactions particularly strongly and so these preferences may carry more weight than other preferences because of this intensity of feeling.

This leads us back into the practical conclusions in your OP. Suppose that a moral aversion to impure, disgusting things is innate (and arguably one of the most basic moral dispositions). It still seems possible that people routinely overcome and override this basic disposition and just decide that impurity doesn’t matter morally and disgusting things aren’t morally bad.

I'm not sure if I know what you're talking about by 'impure things'. Sewage perhaps? I'm not sure what it means to have a moral aversion to sewage. Maybe you mean something like the aversion to the untouchable caste? I do not know enough about that to comment.

Independently of the meaning of 'impure', let me respond to "people routinely overcome and override this basic disposition": certainly people's moral beliefs often come into conflict e.g. trolley problems. I would describe most of these cases as having multiple conflicting universalizable preferences in play. Sometimes one of those preferences is a meta-reaction, e.g. 'call to universality', and if the meta-reaction is more salient or intense then perhaps it carries more weight than a 'basic disposition'. Let me stress again that I do not make a distinction between universalizable preferences which are 'basic dispositions' and those which I refer to as meta-reactions. These should be treated on an equal footing.

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