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The expected value of extinction risk reduction is positive

Oh, sorry, I was thinking of the arguments in my post, not (only) those in your post. I should have been more precise in my wording.

The expected value of extinction risk reduction is positive

Thank you for the reply, Jan, especially noting those additional arguments. I worry that your article neglects them in favor of less important/controversial questions on this topic. I see many EAs taking the "very unlikely that [human descendants] would see value exactly where we see disvalue" argument (I'd call this the 'will argument,' that the future might be dominated by human-descendant will and there is much more will to create happiness than suffering, especially in terms of the likelihood of hedonium over dolorium) and using that to justify a very heavy focus on reducing extinction risk, without exploration of those many other arguments. I worry that much of the Oxford/SF-based EA community has committed hard to reducing extinction risk without exploring those other arguments.

It'd be great if at some point you could write up discussion of those other arguments, since I think that's where the thrust of the disagreement is between people who think the far future is highly positive, close to zero, and highly negative. Though unfortunately, it always ends up coming down to highly intuitive judgment calls on these macro-socio-technological questions. As I mentioned in that post, my guess is that long-term empirical study like the research in The Age of Em or done at Sentience Institute is our best way of improving those highly intuitive judgment calls and finally reaching agreement on the topic.

The expected value of extinction risk reduction is positive

Thanks for posting on this important topic. You might be interested in this EA Forum post where I outlined many arguments against your conclusion, the expected value of extinction risk reduction being (highly) positive.

I do think your "very unlikely that [human descendants] would see value exactly where we see disvalue" argument is a viable one, but I think it's just one of many considerations, and my current impression of the evidence is that it's outweighed.

Also FYI the link in your article to "moral circle expansion" is dead. We work on that approach at Sentience Institute if you're interested.

Why I'm focusing on invertebrate sentience

I remain skeptical of how much this type of research will influence EA-minded decisions, e.g. how many people would switch donations from farmed animal welfare campaigns to humane insecticide campaigns if they increased their estimate of insect sentience by 50%? But I still think the EA community should be allocating substantially more resources to it than they are now, and you seem to be approaching it in a smart way, so I hope you get funding!

I'm especially excited about the impact of this research on general concern for invertebrate sentience (e.g. establishing norms that there are at least some smart humans are actively working on insect welfare policy) and on helping humans better consider artificial sentience when important tech policy decisions are made (e.g. on AI ethics).

2018 list of half-baked volunteer research ideas

[1] Cochrane mass media health articles (and similar):

  • Targeted mass media interventions promoting healthy behaviours to reduce risk of non-communicable diseases in adult, ethnic minorities
  • Mass media interventions for smoking cessation in adults
  • Mass media interventions for preventing smoking in young people.
  • Mass media interventions for promoting HIV testing
  • Smoking cessation media campaigns and their effectiveness among socioeconomically advantaged and disadvantaged populations
  • Population tobacco control interventions and their effects on social inequalities in smoking: systematic review
  • Are physical activity interventions equally effective in adolescents of low and high socioeconomic status (SES): results from the European Teenage project
  • The effectiveness of nutrition interventions on dietary outcomes by relative social disadvantage: a systematic review
  • Use of folic acid supplements, particularly by low-income and young women: a series of systematic reviews to inform public health policy in the UK
  • Use of mass media campaigns to change health behaviour
  • The role of the media in promoting and reducing tobacco use
  • Getting to the Truth: Evaluating National Tobacco Countermarketing Campaigns
  • Effect of televised, tobacco company-funded smoking prevention advertising on youth smoking-related beliefs, intentions, and behavior
  • Do mass media campaigns improve physical activity? a systematic review and meta-analysis
Which piece got you more involved in EA?

I can't think of anything that isn't available in a better form now, but it might be interesting to read for historical perspective, such as what it looks like to have key EA ideas half-formed. This post on career advice is a classic. Or this post on promoting Buddhism as diluted utilitarianism, which is similar to the reasoning a lot of utilitarians had for building/promoting EA.

Which piece got you more involved in EA?

The content on Felicifia.org was most important in my first involvement, though that website isn't active anymore. I feel like forum content (similar to what could be on the EA Forum!) was important because it's casually written and welcoming. Everyone was working together on the same problems and ideas, so I felt eager to join.

Leverage Research: reviewing the basic facts

Just to add a bit of info: I helped with THINK when I was a college student. It wasn't the most effective strategy (largely, it was founded before we knew people would coalesce so strongly into the EA identity, and we didn't predict that), but Leverage's involvement with it was professional and thoughtful. I didn't get any vibes of cultishness from my time with THINK, though I did find Connection Theory a bit weird and not very useful when I learned about it.

Excerpt from 'Doing Good Better': How Vegetarianism Decreases Animal Product Supply

I get it pretty frequently from newcomers (maybe in the top 20 questions for animal-focused EA?), but everyone seems convinced by a brief explanation of how there's still a small chance of big purchasing changes even if every small consumption change doesn't always lead to a purchasing change.

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