Jsevillamol

PhD student at Aberdeen University studying Bayesian reasoning

Interested in practical exercises and theoretical considerations related to causal inference, forecasting and prioritization.

Sequences

Forecasting quantum computing

Wiki Contributions

Comments

What would you ask a policymaker about existential risks?

In the last few months my colleague Juan García and I have been interviewing civil servants working on risk management in Spain with a similar purpose. It has gone quite well, and we have both learnt a lot and have been tentatively invited to provide input into the capital's new risk management plan.

Some questions we have been asking (sometimes in a roundabout way, as we learned the vocabulary they are familiar with):

  • As you see it, what are the key functions of your organization?
  • What are the top risks you focus on? How did the current prioritization of risks came to be? Are there any active recurrent efforts to map and consider new risks?
  • What kind of prevention / planification efforts happen for each of the prioritized risks?
  • What tools does your organization have to anticipate emergencies?
  • How does the emergency response apparatus get activated? Who are the key decision makers involved?
  • How are new, unforeseen risks treated? As a concrete recent example, what was the role of your organization during COVID-19?
  • What do you see as the most important function of [the organization you work in]? What are some past operations in your organization you would highlight as examples of the importance of your organization?
  • What initiatives are being taken to improve the operation of your organization? What are your key bottlenecks? What do you think should be improved further?
  • How has public risk management changed in the last few years? What
  • What other organizations do you often collaborate with? Can you introduce us to some people there to interview them?
  • How can people interested in improving the system can get involved? Specifically, how can academics researching global risk management help you make better decisions?

Some mindset advice:

  • Be friendly, show them you are on their side by focusing on their triumphs rather than their failures. The main goal is to learn their framework, not to push a new framework onto them.
  • Learn their language and use them. If you talk about GCRs right off the bat they will be intimidated and talk in circles. Ask easy questions first, possibly things you could have learnt out of their websites, to warm them up and learn what concepts they use to think about such things.
  • When talking about more weird things, ask for personal opinions. Civil servants are very careful about saying that they are worried about extreme food shortages if it may reflect on their organization, but they are more willing to note personal worries.
  • Do not push people to talk about things they might not want to talk about. You are going to be keen on talking about existential risk and GCRs. They will want to talk about forest fires and floods. Focus on the commonalities of both things - how are risks in general prioritized?
  • But don't let them talk abstractly. Focus on concrete details and paraphrase.
  • While you are interviewing them to gather info, the best outcomes for these conversations are not the interview itself: it's a network of professionals you can contact and possibly getting involved in some capactity into higher level decision making.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask, either in a comment or through a PM. Also happy to schedule a meeting if it would be useful.

How do you track your donations?

There exists the option of generating a personalized invitation to join Ayuda Efectiva where you show information on your impact so far. It doesn't explicitly say the amount donated.

How do you track your donations?

I use Ayuda Efectiva to donate. 

They automatically manage your portfolio of donations to the charities they support (AMF, Malaria Consortium, SCI Foundation, Deworm the World and Hellen Keller International; I think more are coming later) and keep track of the donations you made, as well as their expected social impact.

They only operate in Spain, so if you want to get a fiscal deduction and live elsewhere you are out of luck. But I think it is a great model, and I wish it would be copied elsewhere!

Ending The War on Drugs - A New Cause For Effective Altruists?

One key argument made in the article is that drug use is relatively inelastic - spending more on enforcement does not seem to change the amoung of drugs consumed in a zone.
I found this persuasive, but I just found one piece of evidence on the contrary: Australia has had a lot of success combating heroin overdoses via enforcing drug trafficking laws 

Obviously the situation in Australia might be different than in other parts of the world, but this gives me a bit of pause. Definitely merits more analysis of the tradeoffs involved!

What are things everyone here should (maybe) read?

What's the coursera course you coursed and do you recommend it?

What are things everyone here should (maybe) read?

I would recommend everyone to read the book How to solve it, by Polya.

It covers basic techniques for solving a problem, from "solve a simpler problem" to "decompose the problem into subproblems". Its examples are high school trigonometric exercises, but the techniques apply much more widely.

I claim that if you understand the lessons in this book (which, granted, takes a lot of practice you will need to get elsewhere) you get 60% of the benefit of having coursed a math major.

What are things everyone here should (maybe) read?

Also, on the topic of probability, Jane Street's guide to probability and making markets is an express introduction and refresher to the topic (more the probability part than the making markets part, though that one is interesting too)

What are things everyone here should (maybe) read?

For econ, I have found the videos on Marginal Revolution University to be a good introduction to the basic concepts for somebody with zero background on economics (specially the course on microeconomics, and to a lesser extent the course on macroeconomics).

For stats I am still searching, but when I was preparing for an interview with DeepMind they recommended me PennState's online material for their stat414 and stat415 courses and they are alright.

How should we run the EA Forum Prize?

So for me the prize fulfills some very important purposes. Perhaps the most important two are:

  • Curating the best content
  • Rewarding content creators for producing content

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Curating the best content

I regularly use the prize posts as a "summary of the best of the month" which I greatly appreciate. It helps me focus my attention on the best articles of the month. It is also a great experience for the authors, who just publish content as usual and without any additional overhead sometimes they get selected for the prize. This is how I wish more academic areas worked - everything published openly in a preprint archive and then the journals acting as "curators", selecting the best work. I really wish something like this will remain in the forum (a "best of the month" selection).

This is a very useful function also to help analyze a posteriori the impact of the best pieces of the forum, as for example with this  post.

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Rewarding our content creators for producing content

I would think some people who are specially competitive are motivated by the prize to write more. But I don't know how large of a share of the community is like that.

Instead, I think the most important reward is making people feel proud and recognized for their work. When somebody I knew won the forum or comment prize, they were showered with praise and felt happy and appreciated.

This goal is a bit at tension with the goal of curating the best content. People are sometimes disheartened by the posts being consistently won by professional researchers who have the time and experience to write very good posts.

I think I would like this goals to be somehow separated - though I admit I am a bit confused about how one would go about doing that.

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