All of Jpmos's Comments + Replies

Paper summary: A Paradox for Tiny Probabilities and Enormous Values (Nick Beckstead and Teruji Thomas)

I really appreciated this, having watched GPI come out with papers that seemed really neat but incomprehensible to me.

How the Ukraine conflict may influence spending on longtermist projects

I think it'd be bizarre if the war in Ukraine didn't shift out funding priorities in some way.  WW3 now appears likelier, and likelier to happen sooner. Presumably, this should shift more of a focus towards A. preventing it and B. minimizing its harm. 

Podcast: Samo Burja on the war in Ukraine, avoiding nuclear war and the longer term implications

The episode was fun to listen to! It was also my introduction to the podcast, which I'll be listening to more of. 

There were some good takes, but I was not impressed by the following section of Samo's: 

So, as US hegemony recedes globally, I think there will be more wars. Not necessarily in Europe, though I predict there will be wars in the following parts of Europe:

I think the Mediterranean, there will be one, there will be some large wars fought in the Mediterranean as there will be a new balance of power between European countries that aspire t

... (read more)
How are you keeping it together?

Thank you for writing that Ed! 

How are you keeping it together?

Hi, I'm afraid I don't have any terribly helpful advice. My family and other people I know are having the same struggle. 

The best I can come up with is that the metaculus community gives a 20% chance of WW3 breaking out before 2050. That's definitely way too high, but I assume that most of the probability mass is distributed somewhat evenly over time. The same community also places a 2% chance on a NATO nation invoking article 5 in the next year, which would presumably not equate to nuclear war in the same circumstance. 

However, I think recent ev... (read more)

Moral uncertainty and public justification (Barret and Schmidt, 2021)

Would you be able to provide a plainer language summary of the papers conclusions or arguments? I think I'm interested in the topics discussed in the paper. But it’s unclear me what the arguments actually are, so I’m inclined to disengage. 

Take this sentence, which seems important: 

“We argue that while the moral uncertainty approach cannot vindicate an exceptionless public justification principle, it gives us reason to adopt public justification as a pro tanto institutional commitment.”

I do not understand this and so I do not see how this is a valuable addition to the critical topic of moral uncertainty.

4Vaughn Papenhausen10mo
I know this doesn't solve the actual problem you're getting at, but here's a translation of that sentence from philosophese to English. "Pro tanto" essentially means "all else equal": a "pro tanto" consideration is a consideration, but not necessarily an overriding one. "Public justification" just means justifying policy choices with reasons that would/could be persuasive to the public/to the people they will affect. So the sentence as a whole means something like "While moral uncertainty doesn't mean that governments (and other institutions) should always justify their decisions to the people, it does mean they should do so when they can."
What Motivates Unethical Behavior and How Does that Affect our Altruistic Response?

That crisis was resolved when President Dwight Eisenhower sent the National Guard to Arkansas to integrate Central High School.

Small note: A division of the US military  was called in response to Faubus ordering the Arkansas National Guard to block integration. I think the details show how the situation was one of the most precarious Federal-State conflicts since the civil war, and I think that'd influence how I would respond to the question. 

Invertebrate pain and suffering: What do analgesic studies tell us?

A related thought: 

Some humans are much less sensitive to physical pain.

1. Could an observer correctly differentiate between those with normal and abnormally low sensitivity to pain? 

2. For humans who're  relatively insensitive to pain, but still exhibit the appropriate response to harm signals (assuming they exist), would analgesics diminish the "appropriateness" of their response to a harm signal? 

A Primer on the Symmetry Theory of Valence

Edit: This comment now makes less sense, given that Abby has revised the language of her comment. 


I strongly endorse what you say in your last paragraph: 

Please provide evidence that "dissonance in the brain" as measured by a "Consonance Dissonance Noise Signature" is associated with suffering? ... I'm willing to change my skepticism about this theory if you have this evidence. 

However, I'd like to push back on the tone of your reply. If you're sorry for posting a negative non-constructive comment, why not try to be a bit more construct... (read more)

Hi Jpmos, 

I think context is important here. This is not an earnest but misguided post from an undergrad with big ideas and little experience. This is a post from an organization trying to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can check out their website if you want, the front page has a fundraising advertisement. 

Further, there are a lot of fancy buzzwords in this post ("connectome!") and enough jargon that people unfamiliar with the topic might think there is substance here that they just don't understand (see Harrison's comment: "I also ... (read more)

Hi Jpmos, really appreciate the comments. To address the question of evidence, this is a fairly difficult epistemological situation but we’re working with high-valence datasets from Daniel Ingram & Harvard, and Imperial College London (jhana data, and MDMA data, respectively) and looking for signatures of high harmony. Neuroimaging is a pretty messy thing, there are no shortcuts to denoising data, and we are highly funding constrained, so I’m afraid we don’t have any peer-reviewed work published on this yet. I can say that initial results seem fairly promising and we hope to have something under review in 6 months. There is a wide range of tacit evidence that stimulation patterns with higher internal harmony produce higher valence than dissonant patterns (basically: music feels good, nails on a chalkboard feels bad), but this is in a sense ‘obvious’ and only circumstantial evidence for STV. Happy to ‘talk shop’ if you want to dig into details here.
[Podcast] Having a successful career with anxiety, depression, and imposter syndrome

I found that this episode increased my faith in the EA community a little bit. One of my caricatures of other EAs when I first found the community was "it's good these people exist but they'd make terrible friends because they're so impartial they'd leave me in a rut to squeeze the epsilon out of an EV that bears a resemblance to a probability." 

It was a bit of an (irrational?) fear that EAs and EA orgs were constituted by hyper-utilitarians that'd sacrifice their friends / employees if the felicific calculus didn't add up. 

But most people I've m... (read more)

Instrumental utilitarian reasoning aside, it makes sense that people whose common traits include:

a) An unusually high degree of altruism, often driven by compassion, and

b) A feeling that only a small number of people share some of their fundamental values

...would be exceptionally altruistic and compassionate towards the people around them, and also feel a special sense of kinship with people who share said values (even if those people weren't their friends).

I understand where the "terrible friends" caricature comes from, but I feel like it's a meta-caricat... (read more)

How much do you (actually) work?

I've tracked my time for a year working remotely doing research and it comes out to between 25 and 35 hours a week. 

I'd guess a little more than half is deep work where I am fully engaged and undistracted. Most of the time this means taking no breaks for a several hour stretch every day. It's not uncommon for at least half of the deep work to be misguided or not best spent on reflection.   

I'm not sure what to imagine when I hear an amount of weekly hours when working remotely. Working 40 hours a week at an office or on a job site can be rel... (read more)

What are your favorite examples of moral heroism/altruism in movies and books?

I am imagining movies with heroes where it wasn't their job (so not the soldier in 1917 / most war movies) or they weren't in some sense "chosen" (most superhero / fantasy movies). 

Seven samurai: where some samurai reluctantly attempt to protect a village. 

Princess mononoke: I just think this is a good hero story. 

Hacksaw Ridge (I didn't really want to include any war movies, but I think this merits inclusion because it's  about a conscientious objector. Very violent.)

Haven't seen Hotel Rwanda but it may merit inclusion. 

The title of this post did not inform me about the claim "that EAs have collectively decided that they do not need to participate in tight feedback loops with reality in order to have a huge, positive impact -- [and] this is a deeply rooted mistake." 

I came  very close to not actually reading what is an interesting claim I'd like to see explored because it came close to the end and there was no hint of it in the title or the start of the post. Since it is still relatively early in the life of this post you may want to consider revising the title and layout of the post to communicate more effectively. 

Some EA Forum Posts I'd like to write

After the apocalypse

I think this is interesting in of itself but also related to something I haven't seen explored much in general: How important is it that EA ideas exist a long time? How important is it that they are widely held?  How would we package an idea to propagate through time? How could we learn from religions?  

More directly to the topic: is this a point in favor of EAs forming a hub in New Zealand? 

  • Comparative lit studies of whether ambitious science fiction (might not be well operationalized) is correlated with ambitious scienc
... (read more)
Proving too much: A response to the EA forum

Nice post and useful discussion. I did think this post would be a meta-comment about the EA forum, not a (continued) discussion of arguments against strong longtermism. 

The transformative potential of cryptocurrencies

One thing I would note is that cryptocurrency as a cause area is independent of cryptocurrency having have a net benefit or a net harmful effect; potentially cryptocurrency could destabilize global financial systems, so if one has a less positive view on cryptocurrency, regulating cryptocurrency (whether by governments, or by self-regulation within the ecosystem) and making sure at least some cryptocurrencies have a positive impact (thus reducing the overall net harm) could still be a potential cause area.

Good point! I think I'd like to see more spelling o... (read more)

The transformative potential of cryptocurrencies


The outlook for cryptocurrencies as a cause area seems rather mixed from my pretty uninformed viewpoint. I'd like to highlight some reasons outside of their speculative potential. I think the best argument can be made for cryptocurrencies adding value through poverty alleviation.

Epistemic disclosure: Any knowledge comes from reading the news not studying the topic.


  • May make it much much easier / far less costly to send remittances which make up larger and arguably more helpful inflows than aid in many LMICs. I think this is worth thinking about
... (read more)
Thanks a lot for you take. One thing I would note is that cryptocurrency as a cause area is independent of cryptocurrency having have a net benefit or a net harmful effect; potentially cryptocurrency could destabilize global financial systems, so if one has a less positive view on cryptocurrency, regulating cryptocurrency (whether by governments, or by self-regulation within the ecosystem) and making sure at least some cryptocurrencies have a positive impact (thus reducing the overall net harm) could still be a potential cause area. To address a few other points: Indeed, bitcoin is outrageously bad in many aspects of its technology. This isn't a universal problem for cryptocurrency though, the whole Nano network for example could approximately be powered by a wind turbine while having much higher throughput and speed compared to bitcoin. It goes to show how the crypto market right now is not guided by the right values, the bar for positive change here is quite low. I am pretty sure that's a real problem, the complexity of blockchain technology is quite high, and there are powerful monetary incentives while the social benefit is far from being automatic. I agree, it might not be suitable as a widely presentable cause area in the same way poverty is. I don't think it's old fashioned but still highly relevant. For example, cryptocurrency being banned instead of being regulated in a sensible way could potentially to lead to criminal organizations benefitting from cryptocurrency while devaluing legal currencies, so I see a real risk here. I am not sure the concept of an efficient market is a very useful concept with regard to cryptocurrencies as it's now. As a former poker player I see more similarity to poker in that there are rational ways to get an advantage, but the market as a whole is rather irrational, driven more by circumstantial information (eg Elon Musk making a tweet) rather than well-informed investors. The big difference to poker is that cryptocurr
Creepy Crawlies (an EA poem)

This is great. I was wondering whether EA art was posted on the forum. I'd like to see more of it.

Me too. Maybe I'll write some.
The Center for Election Science Appeal for 2020

It's exciting to see the tangible success CES has made. And I think that repeatedly making the case for one big simple idea clearly, approval voting, is a powerful formula.

If "effective localism" existed, think approval voting would top the list for impactful reforms someone could take in their community, with zoning reform being a distant second for most communities.

Thanks! You're right. There's so much to be said for making an approach as simple as possible.
My mistakes on the path to impact

At what point did you realize you regretted not continuing your political work? At that point what stopped you from re-engaging?

Definitely in 2017, possibly earlier, although I am not sure. I went to the main national event of my political organisation in autumn 2017, after not having been a few years. I could not generally re-engage as I moved countries in 2016. Unfortunately, political networks don't cross borders very well.
Book on Civilisational Collapse?

I have not explicitly searched out books to answer this question, but here is my understanding.

The best books have to be Asimov's Foundation trilogy.

The most relevant book to answer this question is Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. It focuses on relatively isolated societies whose downfall was auto-catalyzed, mostly in the form of ecocide where a society annihilates its potential by over exploiting its natural resources. Most of the criticisms of the book appear to originate about how one case or another of col... (read more)

Thanks! :)