All of james.lucassen's Comments + Replies

The last

Not entirely sure if I interpreted your intentions right when I tried to write an answer. In particular, I'm confused by the line "I could create just a little more hedonium". My understanding is that hedonium refers to the arrangement of matter that produces utility most efficiently. Is the narrator deciding whether to convert themselves into hedonium?

I ended up interpreting things as if "hedonium" was meant to mean "utility", and the narrator is deciding what their last thought should be - how to produce just a little more utility with their last few computations before the universe winds down. Hopefully I interpreted correctly - or if I was incorrect, I hope this feedback is helpful  :)

1Visa Om9dAs Roland Barthes says 'the author is dead', but, in my book, your interpretation is right on the money. I liked your interpretation of how to create hedonium in such a circumstance!
The last was beautiful. And that is good.


Bro this is really scary. Well done.

Observation: prion-catalysis or not, any vaccine-evasion measures at all seem extraordinarily dangerous. For a highly infectious threat, the fastest response we have right now is mass vaccine manufacture, and that seems just barely fast enough. But our vaccine tech is public knowledge, and an apocalyptic actor can take all the time they want to design a countermeasure. 

Once a threat with any sort of countermeasure is released, we first have to go through a vaccine development cycle to find that out in the first plac... (read more)

Public Health Research

I agree that relatively small improvements in public health could potentially be highly beneficial. Research on this might be totally tractable. 

What I am concerned might be intractable is deploying results. Public health (and all health-relevant products) is a massive industry, with a lot of strong interests pushing in different directions. It seems entirely possible that all the answers are already out there, just drowned out by food, exercise, sexual health, self-help, and other industries.

There's so much noise out there, it seems unlikely that a few EAs will be able to get a word in edgewise.

1Michael_23582moI agree on the challenges of deploying results. I think the primary value in public health research is empowering individuals to make good decisions for themselves. For example, sites like WedMD and Healthline add a lot of value for individuals trying to improve their families' health. I don't think the answer is already out there on obesity and many other chronic diseases. If it is, I would appreciate someone directing me to it. :)
Promoting Simple Altruism

Thank you for posting! Many kudos for contributing to the frontpage discussion rather than lurking for years like many people (including me).

I agree with most of your assessment here. But I think rather than "simple altruism", it would be better to focus on "altruistic intent". Making this substitution doesn't change much, the major differences are just that it includes EA itself, and excludes cynically motivated giving. The thing I think we care about is people trying to do good, not specifically doing non-EA things.

That said, increasing altruistic intent... (read more)

1LiaH2moI agree! With both your points on renaming it "altruistic intent", and the reasons behind. I thought perhaps improving altruistic intent must be somewhere under the EA radar, but in the very superficial reading I have done to date, I had not found it. I will look more specifically now at broad longtermism. To be honest, I was also hoping the EA community had more skills in persuasion and politics, and was already working on it. Finally, thank you for acknowledging my neophyte attempts on a front page post. It took a lot of internal debate and self-talk to write it ;)
Why "cause area" as the unit of analysis?

I think this definition of "cause area" is roughly how the EA community uses the term in practice, and explains a lot of why/how it's useful. It helps facilitate good discussion by pointing towards the best people to talk to, since others in my cause area will have common knowledge and interests with myself and each other. On this view, "cause area" is just EA-speak for a subcommunity.

That makes it a bit hard to justify the common EA practice of "cause prioritization" though, since causes aren't really particularly homogeneous with regard to their impact. I think doing "intervention prioritization" would be a lot more useful, even though there's way more interventions than causes.

Metaculus Questions Suggest Money Will Do More Good in the Future

Is there some kind of up-to-date dashboard or central source for GiveWell's main "cost-per-expected-life" figure? 

  • The Metaculus question mentioned in this post cites values like $890 in 2016,  $823 in 2017, $617 in 2018 and $592 in 2019, and I can't find the field they refer to in the resolve condition (?!)
  • This 80K article lists the value as $2300 in 2020.
  • This GiveWell summary sheet from 2016 has a minimum value of $901
  • GiveWell's Top Charities page lists $3000-$5000 to save a life for Malaria Consortium, Against Malaria Foundation, New Incentives
... (read more)
5WilliamKiely3mo(1) The Metaculus question adjusts numbers for inflation to 2015 dollars, so they wouldn't appear explicitly in GiveWell's spreadsheets. (2) Note that there's a distinction between "outcome as good as saving a life" and "cost per life saved". The $890 number is (GiveWell's 2016 estimate of) the former while the $3,000 - $5,000 is the latter. The former includes good done by reducing the probability that people die as well as good done by raising peoples' incomes, which at some point is equivalently good to averting a death. Pablo's comment here says [] : "As far as I can tell, the 2020 version of GiveWell's cost-effectiveness analysis [] no longer employs the category of "outcome as good as saving a life". I haven't been keeping up with GiveWell's updates in the last year or two and am merely speculating, but perhaps GiveWell no longer employs the metric "outcome as good as a saving a life" (??). Hopefully someone else can answer this with confidence. I assume your citation of GiveWell's Top Charities page listing $3000-$5000 to save a life is the closest they have to a an up-to-date dashboard or central source number, and they're just choosing to advertise that number (a number in terms of cost to save a life) rather than advertise a cost to produce an "outcome as good as saving a life."
A proposal for a small inducement prize platform

I am pretty excited about the potential for this idea, but I am a bit concerned about the incentives it would create. For example, I'm not sure how much I would trust a bibliography, summary, or investigation produced via bounty. I would be worried about omissions that would conflict with the conclusions of the work, since it would be quite hard for even a paid arbitrator to check for such omissions without putting in a large amount of work. I think the reason this is not currently much of a concern is precisely because there is no external incentive to pr... (read more)

1nlacombe4moanother incentive system/component I have seen is that forums will allow users not only to upvote but to give other incentives to good answers. stackoverflow has bounty, and reddit coins
6Matthew_Barnett5moGood ideas. I have a few more, * Have a feature that allows people to charge fees to people who submit work. This would potentially compensate the arbitrator who would have to review the work, and would discourage people from submitting bad work in the hopes that they can fool people into awarding them the bounty. * Instead of awarding the bounty to whoever gives a summary/investigation, award the bounty to the person who provides the best summary/investigation, at the end of some time period. That way, if someone thinks that the current submissions are omitting important information, or are badly written, then they can take the prize for themselves by submitting a better one. * Similar to your first suggestion: have a feature that restricts people from submitting answers unless they pass certain basic criteria. E.g. "You aren't eligible unless you are verified to have at least 50 karma on the Effective Altruist Forum or Lesswrong." This would ensure that only people from within the community can contribute to certain questions. * Use adversarial meta-bounties: at the end of a contest, offer a bounty to anyone who can convince the judge/arbitrator to change their mind on the decision they have made.
What key facts do you find are compelling when talking about effective altruism?

If it costs $4000 to prevent a death from malaria, malaria deaths happen at age 20 on average, and life expectancy in Africa is 62 years, then the cost per lifetime saved is $0.0109/hour. 

If you make the average US income of $15.35/hour, this means that every marginal hour you work to donate can be expected to save 1,412 hours of life, if you take the very thoroughly researched, very scalable, low-risk baseline option. If you can only donate 10% of your income, then your leverage is reduced to a mere 141.2. Just by virtue of having been born in a deve... (read more)