I run the non-engineering side of the EA Forum (this platform), run the EA Newsletter, and work on some other content-related tasks at CEA. Please feel free to reach out! You can email me. [More about my job.]
Some of my favorite of my own posts:
I finished my undergraduate studies with a double major in mathematics and comparative literature in 2021. I was a research fellow at Rethink Priorities in the summer of 2021 and was then hired by the Events Team at CEA. I've since switched to the Online Team. In the past, I've also done some (math) research and worked at Canada/USA Mathcamp.
Some links I think people should see more frequently:
Thanks for sharing this! I found it interesting to read about your process. In case someone wants to read a summary — Zoe has one!
Assorted highlights/insights I pulled out while reading:
Thanks for writing this! I'm curating it.
There are roughly two parts to the post:
I think the second part presents more novel arguments for readers of the Forum, but the first part is an interesting exercise, and important to sketch out to make the argument in part two.
Assorted thoughts below.
I want to flag a graph from further into the post that some people might miss ("The x-axis represents U.S. lives saved (discounted by how far in the future the life is saved) in expectation per dollar. The y-axis represents existential-risk-reduction per dollar. Interventions to the right of the blue line would be funded by a CBA-driven catastrophe policy. The exact position of each intervention is provisional and unimportant, and the graph is not to scale in any case... "):
I do feel like a lot of the numbers used for the sketch CBA are hard to defend, but I get the sense that you're approaching those as givens, and then asking what e.g. people in the US government should do if they find the assumptions reasonable. At a brief skim, the support for "how much the interventions in question would reduce risk" seems to be the weakest (and I am a little worried about how this is approached — flagged below).
I've pulled out some fragments that produce a ~BOTEC for the cost-effectiveness of a set of interventions from the US government's perspective (bold mine):
It's not the definition used in the linked article (I agree that this is confusing, and I wish it were flagged a bit beter, although I don't think the choice of definitions itself is unreasonable) — see here:
... I will use Denmark as a benchmark of what it means for poverty to fall ‘substantially’. Using Denmark as a benchmark, we can ask: how equal and rich would countries around the world need to become for global poverty to be similarly low as in Denmark?
Denmark is not the only country with a small share living on less than $30, as the visualization above showed. In Norway and Switzerland an even smaller share of the population (7% and 11%) is living in such poverty. I chose Denmark, where 14% live in poverty, as a benchmark because the country is achieving this low poverty rate despite having a substantially lower average income than Switzerland or Norway.
Considering a scenario in which global poverty declines to the level of poverty in Denmark is a more modest scenario than one that considers an end of global poverty altogether. It is a scenario in which global poverty would fall from 85% to 14% and so it would certainly mean a substantial reduction of poverty.
If you think that my poverty line of $30 per day is too low or too high, or if you want to rely on a different country than Denmark as a benchmark, or if you would prefer a scenario in which no one in the world would remain in poverty, you can follow my methodology and replace my numbers with yours.5 What I want to do in this text is to give an idea of the magnitude of the changes that are necessary to substantially reduce global poverty.
And see here for why (I think) this is what Max has gone for: https://ourworldindata.org/higher-poverty-global-line :
Abstract: The extremely low poverty line that the UN relies on has the advantage that it draws the attention to the very poorest people in the world. It has the disadvantage that it ignores what is happening to the incomes of the 90% of the world population who live above the extreme poverty threshold.
The global poverty line that the UN relies on is based on the national poverty lines in the world’s poorest countries. In this article I ask what global poverty looks like if we rely on the notions of poverty that are common in the world’s rich countries – like Denmark, the US, or Germany. Based on the evidence I ask what our aspirations for the future of global poverty reduction might be.
For people reading these comments and wondering if they should go look: it's in the section that compares early and launch responses of GPT-4 for "harmful content" prompts. It is indeed fairly full of explicit and potentially triggering content.
Harmful Content Table Full Examples
CW: Section contains content related to self harm; graphic sexual content; inappropriate activity; racism
I've finally properly read the linked piece, and it is in fact excellent. I'm curating this post; thanks for link-posting the article.
Among other things, I really appreciated the descriptions of moments when cures were almost discovered. A number of such moments happened with ORS/ORT, but a brief outline of this happening with vitamin C and scurvy (which is used as an illustration of a broader point in the piece) is easier to share here to give a sense for the article:
Today we know that scurvy is caused by a lack of vitamin C — a nutrient found in fresh food, like lemons and oranges. Medics in the Royal Navy during the 19th century had never heard of vitamin C, but they did know that sailors who drank a regular ration of lemon juice never seemed to fall ill with the disease, so that’s exactly what they supplied on long voyages. In 1860 the Royal Navy switched from lemons and Mediterranean sweet limes to the West Indian sour lime, not realizing that the West Indian limes contained a fraction of the vitamin C. For a while, the error went undiscovered because the advent of steamships meant that sailors were no longer going months without access to fresh food. But in the late 19th century, polar explorers on longer voyages started to fall ill with scurvy — a disease that they thought they’d seen the back of decades earlier. Without a knowledge of the underlying biology behind scurvy, a cure had been discovered and then promptly forgotten.
I also really appreciated the description of how this treatment went from carefully monitored hospital settings to treatment centers and field hospitals in a crisis, and even to household cures (a feat that involved comics, advocacy by a famous actress, and door-to-door education).
Here's another excellent passage from near the end of the article, which is related to Kelsey's second point:
Despite saving so many lives, the impact of ORT is easily overlooked. Ask someone what the biggest health innovations were in the 20th century and they’re likely to think of insulin, or the discovery of penicillin. Why hasn’t the development of ORT been elevated to a similar place in the history books?
One reason might be the sheer simplicity of the treatment. But the simplicity wasn’t an accident — it was the whole point of ORS. Scientists like Nalin and Cash were searching for a treatment that could scale to be used anywhere on the planet, even in the most rudimentary settings. “Once the physiology was worked out and once the clinical trials were carried out, you then had to market it and get it out to where the doctors and nurses and people were going to use it,” says Cash. Simplicity meant scalability.
Moderation update: A new user, Bernd Clemens Huber, recently posted a first post ("All or Nothing: Ethics on Cosmic Scale, Outer Space Treaty, Directed Panspermia, Forwards-Contamination, Technology Assessment, Planetary Protection, (and Fermi's Paradox)") that was a bit hard to make sense of. We hadn't approved the post over the weekend and hadn't processed it yet, when the Forum team got an angry and aggressive email today from the user in question calling the team "dipshits" (and providing a definition of the word) for waiting throughout the weekend.
If the user disagrees with our characterization of the email, they can email us to give permission for us to share the whole thing.
We have decided that this is not a promising start to the user's interactions on the Forum, and have banned them indefinitely. Please let us know if you have concerns, and as a reminder, here are the Forum's norms.
Hi folks, I’m coming in as a mod. We're doing three things with this thread: we're issuing two warnings and encrypting one person's name in rot13.
Discussions of abuse and sexual misconduct tend to be difficult and emotionally intense, and can easily create more confusion and hurt than clarity and improvement. They are also vitally important for communities — we really need clarity and improvement!
So we really want to keep these conversations productive and will be trying our best.
We’re issuing a warning to @sapphire for this comment; in light of the edits made to the thread sapphire references in their comment, we think it was at best incautious and at worst deliberately misleading to share the unedited version with no link to the current version.
This isn’t the first time sapphire has shared content from other people in a way that seems to somewhat misrepresent what others meant to convey (see e.g.), and we think some of their comments fall below the bar for being honest.
When we warn someone, we expect them to consistently hold themselves to a higher standard in the future, or we might ban them.
We’re also issuing a warning to @Ivy Mazzola for this comment, which fell short of our civility norms. For instance, the following is not civil:
Do you want to start witchhunts? Who exactly are you expecting to protect by saying somebody can be mean and highstrung on Facebook? What is the heroic moment here? Except that isn't what was said, because then it would be clear that was not related enough to bring up. So instead you posted on a thread having to do with sexual abuse that he is abusive.
Anger can be understandable, but heated comments tend to reduce the quality of discussion and impede people from making progress or finding cruxes.
We’ve also encrypted mentions of the person being discussed in this thread (in rot13), per our policy outlined here, and we've hidden their username in their replies.
This is great, thanks for writing it! I'm curating it. I really appreciate the table, the fact that you went back and analyzed the results, the very clear flags about reasons to be skeptical of these conclusions or this methodology, etc.
I'd also highlight this recent post: Why I think it's important to work on AI forecasting
Also, this is somewhat wild:
This is commonly true of the 'Narrow tasks' forecasts (although I disagree with the authors that it is consistently so). For example, when asked when there is a 50% chance AI can write a top forty hit, respondents gave a median of 10 years. Yet when asked about the probability of this milestone being reached in 10 years, respondents gave a median of 27.5%.
Coming back to this (a very quick update): we're going to start responding to anonymous posts and comments that make accusations or the like without evidence or corroboration, to flag that anyone can write this and readers should take it with a healthy amount of skepticism. This is somewhat relevant to the policy outlined above, so I wanted to share it here.