All of Randomized, Controlled's Comments + Replies

What I mean by the phrase "taking ideas seriously"

I think this is one of the things that distinguishes EAs and rationalists from randomly selected smart people. I like to say that EAs have a taste for biting bullets. 

Here are the finalists from FLI’s $100K Worldbuilding Contest

Oh, I wasn't implying any link between worlds 335 and 281, I was just riffing off the idea of sentient and/or symbiotic fungi. I actually think by tying them together in the main body of the post it confusing things.

Here are the finalists from FLI’s $100K Worldbuilding Contest

I am the symbiotic sentient lichen responsible for 

Please DM if you'd like to discuss the possibility of having one of my moieties colonize your lungs or other moist crevasses.

2Jackson Wagner2mo
Ah, I am so sorry! I must have conflated your entry with 281 -- fixed in the post!
Who wants to be hired? (May-September 2022)
Location: Toronto, Canada
Remote: Yep
Willing to relocate: Maybe!
Skills: web programming (9 years), agile development, writing, illustration, resaerch
Résumé/CV/LinkedIn: (linkedin is out of date, resume available on request)
Email: liav dot koren gmail
Bad Omens in Current Community Building

I feel like this post makes concrete some of the tensions I was more abstractly pointing at in A Keynesian/Hayekian model of community building

Has anyone actually talked to conservatives* about EA?

I can see "Republican" becoming its own cluster in the last couple of decades, but what cleanly distinguishes small-c conservative from libertarian? Eg, I definitely would not call Cowen a Republican, but I get the sense he might be somewhat conservative in how he thinks about development, economics and institutions. 

Has anyone actually talked to conservatives* about EA?

Don't know if you want to include "podcast conversations" in your set here, but if you do:

Russ Roberts is fairly conservative, also seemed quite thoughtful and to have good epistemology, when I was listening to econtalk regularly (which hasn't been in a few years). He had a conversation with Bostrom, about AGI, which I thought went terribly (no good, bad bad bad). He also had a conversation with MacAskill, which I don't remember as well, but I have the general sense that it also didn't go super well. Maybe worth a re-listen. He's probably talked with some ... (read more)

He also talked to Rob Wiblin. []

Another Russ Roberts - EA overlap was his interview with Peter Singer. I first heard him discussing it with another guest who said "Wow, that Peter Singer interview was crazy, you must have really been biting your tongue" and Russ agreed he'd been holding back. Then I went back and listened to the Singer interview and . . . couldn't figure out what the crazy part was supposed to be. So apparently I can't pass an intellectual Turing test as Mike Munger or Russ Roberts.

Has anyone actually talked to conservatives* about EA?

>There aren't any prominent conservative EAs (or at least none that I've heard of).

I feel like Tyler Cowen is reasonably libertarian/right of centre. I don't know if he would call himself an EA, but he has an account on the forum, under his full name. I feel like he's pretty well know, at least in these circles.. 

OP was asking about US conservatives/Republicans, which is a different set of people than libertarians (which is where I'd probably put Tyler). For example, in the 2019 survey [] libertarians were 8.7% of the respondents, whereas 'right' and 'center right' were a combined 3.4%. (Note that US respondents were roughly 40%, so a one-to-one comparison can't be made without further analysis.)
I'm not getting in that van.

Thank you for the snippets. 

EAG was, by the end, very emotional for me. I found some of my personal failures being juxtaposed with some of my civilization's failings. I was put in very direct touch with the yearning at my core. I talked with people who I like and respect and feel wary around. Some of them are spooked and worried about the shape of things to come. I felt my own anxieties about my place in the world and my value rear up. It was fun and challenging and exhausting. 

How many EAs failed in high risk, high reward projects?

In 2017 I quit my job and spent a significant amount of time self studying ML, roughly following a curriculum that Dario Amodei laid out in an 80k podcast. I ran this plan past a few different people, including in an 80k career advising session, but after a year, I didn't get a job offer from any of the AI Safety orgs I'd applied to (Ought, OpenAI, maybe a couple of others) and was quite burned out and demotivated. I didn't even feel up to trying to interview for an ML focused job. Instead I went back to web development (although it was with a startup that... (read more)

Fish used as live bait by recreational fishermen

Ugg.. something smells fishy here.. : ) The numbers seem completely outlandish.. 1 - 10 billion for recreational fishing in the US? There are, what.. 300 - 500 million total population in the US, I believe? Even assuming 10% are into fishing, would they consume 1 billion bait fish?

I'm extremely skeptical of this and strongly inclined to make a bet against this info being accurate. Currently considering what exactly I'd be willing to put money down against. My intuition is that these figures might be off by a factor of ten or more.

6Charles He3mo
Ok, extremely random and extremely old necro, but: 1. The incredulity about baitfish size didn't occur for me, the numbers seems pretty reasonable at first glance 2. It was quick for me (120 seconds of Google) to find multiple "touches" of information that supports these numbers. Writing this comment took much longer. Info at end of comment. I guess the purpose of this comment is: * *mumbles some vague justification* ⭐ []minimal trust investigations⭐ [] *mumbling continues* . * It's good to check stuff out using Google and can be easy * Also, the program of research seems important, the welfare of farmed fish and aquaculture seems important Info 1: [] This has baitfish at a $1B industry. Given some guesses/intuitions of how revenue breaks down to cost of good sold (maybe $100-200M cost of producing the fish in terms of feed, amortized facilities), and some knowledge of the physical size of the fish, ag/aquaculture industry, 1-10B baitfish is an unfortunately believable estimate. Info 2: This article reports ~100M baitfish reported for Ontario, which has a population of 15M, or less than 5% that of the US. Info 3a: So we see ~250k-500k fish per hectare in the book "The Progressive Fish-culturist": Info 3b: [] This study has measured regulation cost into the 8 figures ($12M). It also mentions hectares per farm. I expect that if we back out the hectares using this paper (assuming it's there), then multiply the hectares with the density we found in info 3a, we get big numbers (there's thousands of hectares at least, maybe tens of thousands). (I actually stopped here and didn't track down the nu
0Chris Leong4y
I am similarly suspicious. Someone should look into this more.
Possible. It could be that the industry inflates the numbers because they want to seem bigger than they are. Note that baitfish is not even the most popular type of bait. One thing to consider though is how many baitfish people take per fishing trip. After a brief search, I haven't found exact numbers but this website [] is advising: So I imagine that fishermen who do buy baitfish, buy a lot of it. I also read that they often don't use them all and throw the rest into a lake, even though that causes ecological issues and everyone is asking fishermen not to do it. In general, I understand your intuition and I will probably think about this more later.
I was wondering if it's a difference between number hatched and number that make it to the one-year mark at which they're sold?
Peter Singer no-platformed by pro-disability protestors at Canadian university

I'd be happy to join a slack channel. (I'm already on the .impact slack).

I think there's some sort of RSS feed produced by FB groups. I'm going to look into subscribing to that, although I don't know if there's a way to write back to the group with that interface.

Open Thread #36

Does EA need [a] reputation system[s]?

Reputation systems are typically used by on-line platforms to help enable higher levels of trust between users.

1) My sense is that within EA there is a norm that we Do Favors For Each Other; ie, EAs often seem to have the subgoal 'try to help other EAs, within reason'. This is both correct and lovely.

2) This norm may come under significant pressure as the community continues to scale. Will it be sustainable when the community has grown 10x? 100x? 1000x?

If both of these propositions are correct, then an EA reputation... (read more)

We all know how many problems there are with reputation and status seeking. You would lower epistemic standards, cement power users, and make it harder for outsiders and newcomers to get any traction for their ideas. If we do something like this it should be for very specific capabilities, like reliability, skill or knowledge in a particular domain, rather than generic reputation. That would make it more useful and avoid some of the problems.
Peter Singer no-platformed by pro-disability protestors at Canadian university

+1 this. Hate FB. EA is the only reason I semi-regularly think about returning.

That's useful to know. What other online presence besides this forum would you recommend people use?
Tell us how to improve the forum

@Richard_Batty, I'd be interested finding out more about what's needed for EA-SE proposal. I'll also shoot Oliver a email about this.

Anyone have thoughts/response to this critique of Effective Animal Altruism?

I've so far only looked at sections 5 and 6, because those were the most immediately interesting.

I think the critique of the Wild Animal Suffering research is very much on target. I've always thought that at best, WAS work should be relegated to basic questions that can be tackled in biology or ecology.

All of the WAS interventions I've seen discussed seem deeply wacky, misguided and likely to be radioactive for the movement.

Lunar Colony

Nope, the Moon has none of the resources required for sustaining a spacefaring civilization, except sunlight and water.

Well. This might be a bit of an over-statement -- we don't really have a good idea of what's up there. There is good evidence for Titanium and there may be Platnium Group metals up there. Who knows what else?

The moon, mars, or colonies inside hollowed out asteroids certainly doesn't make sense as x-risk mitigation in the near or medium term, but at some point they're going to be necessary.

What does Trump mean for EA?

“The thing that really gets me is that Democrats try to offer policies (paid sick leave! minimum wage!) that would help the working class,” a friend just wrote me. A few days’ paid leave ain’t gonna support a family. Neither is minimum wage. WWC men aren’t interested in working at McDonald’s for $15 per hour instead of $9.50. What they want is what my father-in-law had: steady, stable, full-time jobs that deliver a solid middle-class life to the 75% of Americans who don’t have a college degree. Trump promises that. I doubt he’ll deliver, but at least he

... (read more)
Accomplishments Open Thread - May 2016

Normally I would not double-post an item, but I'd like to increase the chance people see this, and I don't know if it warrants a front-page posting.

EA Toronto

I just created the Effective Altruism Toronto meetup. I'm already in touch with the organizers of LW Toronto. My goal is to reach a monthly meeting tempo over the next 3 - 6 months with a small core of regulars, and then reach a twice-monthly tempo.

Please spread the word to anyone who might be in the GTA!

Promotion help

If anybody has suggestions about how to best promote/spread the word, that woul... (read more)

3Catherine Low6y
That is great. I read somewhere on this forum that starting a meetup is supposed to be super impactful! Facebook is very useful... but I have found meetup really good too. My facebook feed also makes me a better EA too - I have joined so many groups and friended loads of lovely EAs so I now get no Latte Art, and only get inspiring stories of people doing wonderful things and thinking interesting ideas, and that keeps me inspired and active.
Congrats on your activism! For spreading word, try the Local EA FB group []. Are you in touch with the Local Effective Altruist Network? If not, get in touch with them.
Stories of Local Effective Altruism Groups

Inspired by this, I just created the Effective Altruism Toronto meetup. I'm already in touch with the organizers of LW Toronto. Please spread the word to anyone who might be in the GTA!

Effective Altruism Prediction Registry

Also interested, would prefer something not facebook-based. If something needed to be setup/maintained/whatnot, I'd be happy to help.

The Effective Altruism Newsletter & Open Thread - 15 December 2015

I'm going to be in SF/Berkeley from the Dec 26th to Jan 4. If anybody knows of any interesting meetups/events/groups/friendly people worth meeting/checking out, I would be hyper interested. Thanks.

EA Open Thread: October

To expand on my last point: my understanding of effective altruism is that it is expansive. Generous. About becoming "more the people we wished we were". I do not see it as a movement that ridicules or comes from schadenfreude or is punitive. The AM hack is the result of horribly unethical business and software practices, and its fallout is causing a lot of suffering. That's why I think it's bad for EA's image if 'we' are seen to be joking about it.

Committing adultery causes a lot of suffering. Punishing people for anti-social behavior is an important part of any society, to incentivize good behavior. To the extent that western societies hardly punish this behavior at all, despite the huge amounts of suffering it causes, appropriately disincentivizing it could be an extremely effective way of improving the world.
What is the expected effect of poverty alleviation efforts on existential risk?

I've been thinking lately that nuclear non-proliferation is probably a more pressing x-risk than AI at the moment and for the near term. We have nuclear weapons and the American/Russian situation has been slowly deteriorating for years. We are (likely) decades away from needing to solve AI race global coordination problems.

I am not asserting that AI coordination isn't critically important. I am asserting that if we nuke ourselves first, it probably won't matter.

You really don't need to give so many disclaimers for the view that nuclear war is an important global catastropic risk, and that the instantaneous risk is much higher for existing nuclear arsenals than for future technologies (which have ~0 instantaneous risk), which everyone should agree with. Nor for thinking that nuclear interventions might have better returns today. You might be interested in reading OpenPhil's shallow investigation of nuclear weapons policy []. And their preliminary prioritization spreadsheet [] of GCRs. OpenPhil doesn't provide recommendations for individual donors, but you could get started on picking a nuclear charity from their investigation (among other things). If you do look into it, it would be great to post about your research process and findings.
EA Open Thread: October

Do you know that:

a) AM did not verify email addresses? Ie, you could register someone else's email address and they may not know it.

b) AM had users in repressive regimes where non-hetrosexuals faced violence/death? For some of AM's users, the promise of a discrete forum represented a less-dangerous way to find partners

c) Additionally, AM was generally know to be a good place for queer/gay/bi/etc users to hook up even in non-repressive regimes.

d) It's unknown how many users were single or ethically non-monogamous.

e) It's unknown how many users were resear... (read more)

0Randomized, Controlled7y
To expand on my last point: my understanding of effective altruism is that it is expansive. Generous. About becoming "more the people we wished we were". I do not see it as a movement that ridicules or comes from schadenfreude or is punitive. The AM hack is the result of horribly unethical business and software practices, and its fallout is causing a lot of suffering. That's why I think it's bad for EA's image if 'we' are seen to be joking about it.
September Open Thread

A realist Millennial’s view of nuclear weapons by Matthew R. Costlow is a recent, interesting, and problematic short essay which more asserts than argues that the US would be more secure maintaining a large stockpile of nuclear weapons.

More interesting, I think, is the author's assertion that current young activists have a weak understanding of the relevant policy, security and history issues. Costlow doesn't mention Effective Altruism by name, but I suspect that within the movement we probably could stand to level-up our expertise on the area. Nuclear ri... (read more)

The term "Vegan" needs to evolve

I suspect that in the long-term one unit of lab-grown animal (meat | dairy | X ) might be less cruel than some current methods for getting an equivalent unit, but I don't know that it's a certainty. Getting tissues and cells to make cloned meat often means working with butchered animals to begin with. And the lab work involved in the R&D is enormously wasteful in terms of resources. Maybe that initial outlay of suffering is then counter balanced by having a suffering-free (or suffering-reduced) food system, but what if there's an ethical cost to manipu... (read more)

May Open Thread

I'm seriously considering attending the upcoming EA summit in SF. If you were at the 2014 summit, I'm curious what the experience was like. If you have any information about the 2015 version, I'd also be very interested.

I don't have time now, but I actually took extensive notes on the 2014 Summit because I'm excessively nerdy. Ping me about this on Tuesday if I haven't responded by then. I'll fill you in!
April Open Thread

There was an article about nano-satellites on slashdot this afternoon, which cites a $30k figure for an individual satellite build and launch. At that price, obviously it's a tightly constrained package; the same source cites $200k for a cube-sat, which is a bit roomier.

People are starting to think of these types of assets as "relatively" cheap components in constellations -- rather than launching one very high-value, highly capable sat, launch a cluster of smaller/cheaper sats, which can potentially evolve over time as some of them are de-orbit... (read more)

April Open Thread

Would anybody be interested in an x-risk reading group? I know MIRI's been running one going through Superintelligence; I'd love to read a broad swath of x-risk related material, and meet with people to discuss either in person or online (or both). IRL, I'm in Toronto, Ontario.

There is an online EA book club/reading group []. It's not always on x-risk, but I'm sure they could do a period x-risk session. It might be worth starting out like that, as critical mass is a problem for these things and this'd help both the x-risk reading group and the general EA book club reach this.
March Open Thread

Has the date for the 2015 EA Summit been set yet?

March Open Thread

I know for a fact that there are intelligent and thoughtful people who argue that foreign aid spending has not been effective, and in some cases has actually been harmful. And there are other people who are convinced that we need to increase it. So, so much for 'obvious'. : )

I am Seth Baum, AMA!

Thanks again for your time, comments and being a nucleation point for conversation!

I am Seth Baum, AMA!

For what it's worth, I became a (bad) vegan/vegetarian because at its worst, industrial animal husbandry seems to do some truly terrible things. And sorting out the provenance of animal products is just a major PITA, fraught with all sorts of uncertainly and awkward social moments, such as being the doof at the restaurant who needs to ask five different questions about where/how/when the cow got turned into the steak. It's just easier for me to order the salad.

My interest in x-risk comes from wanting to work on big/serious problems. I can't think of a bigger one than x-risk.

I mainly eat veg foods too. It reduces environmental problems, which helps on gcr/xrisk. And it's good for livestock welfare, which is still a good thing to help on. And it lowers global food prices, which is good for global poverty. And apparently it's also healthy. Yeah, same here. I think the most difficult ethical issue with gcr/xrisk is the idea that other, smaller issues don't matter so much. It's like we don't care about the poor or something like that. What I say here is that no, it's precisely because we do care about the poor, and everyone else, that it's so important to reduce these risks. Because unless we avoid catastrophe, nothing else really matters. All that work on all those other issues would be for nothing.
I am Seth Baum, AMA!

First, I commend you for thinking in terms of deconstructed narratives and narratives as tools. I'm curious as to your background. Most people I know who self-identify as 'technically inclined' cannot speak coherently about narrative construction.

I took an honors BA which included a pretty healthy dose of post-structuralist inflected literary theory, along with math and fine arts. I did a masters in architecture, worked in that field for a time, then as a 'creative technologist' and now I'm very happy as a programmer, trying to learn as much math as I can in my free time.

Very interesting!
I am Seth Baum, AMA!

It looks like a good part of the conversation is starting to revolve around influencing policy. I think there's some big macro social/cultural forces that have been pushing people to be apolitical for a while now. The most interesting reform effort I've heard about lately is Lawrence Lessig's anti-PAC in the US.

How can we effectively level our political games up?

I agree there are macro factors pushing people away from policy. However, that can actually increase the effectiveness of policy engagement: less competition. A great way to level up in politics is to get involved in local politics. Local politics is seriously underrated. It is not terribly hard to actually change actual policies. And you make connections that can help you build towards higher levels. For gcr, a good one is urban planning to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. I'm biased here, because I'm an urban planning junkie, but there's always loads of opportunity. Here in NYC I have my eye on a new zoning policy change. It's framed in terms of afforable housing, not global warming, but the effect is the same. See [].
I am Seth Baum, AMA!

Hi Seth. I'm just finishing up work and am going to dump a bunch of questions here, then run home. Sorry for the firehose, and thank you for your time and work!

If I wanted to work at GCRI or a similar think-tank/institution, what skills would make me most valuable?

What are your suggestions for someone who's technically inclined and interested in directly working on existential risk issues?

I'm particularly worried about the risks of totalitarianism, potentially leading to a what, IIRC, Bostrom calls a 'whimper': just a generally shitty future in which m... (read more)

If you do not mind my taking a stab at this one...resiliency in complex adaptive systems is a function of their diversity. A more biologically diverse ecosystem is more resilient and less prone to collapse than one with fewer species and fewer genuses. Similarly, a more diverse economy is less prone to sudden catastrophic failure. In general this pattern can be summarized as: monopolies and concentrations of dominance and power are inherently less resilient and harmful. I have a paper extrapolating on these ideas here: In terms of how to enact my ideas, if they are right, it seems the most effective first step is to push for real enforcement of our anti-trust laws.
You're welcome! Well, I regret that GCRI doesn't have the funds to be hiring right now. Also, I can't speak for other think tanks. GCRI runs a fairly unique operation. But I can say a bit on what we look for in people we work with. Some important things to have for GCRI include: (1) a general understanding of gcr/xrisk issues, for example by reading research from GCRI, FHI, and our colleagues; (2) deep familiarity with specific important gcrs, including research literature, expert communities, and practitioner communities; (3) capability with relevant methodologies in quantitative risk analysis such as risk modeling and expert elicitation; (4) demonstrated ability to publish in academic journals or significant popular media outlets, speak at professional conferences, or otherwise get your ideas heard; (5) ability to work across academic disciplines and professions, and to work with teams of similarly diverse backgrounds. It depends on what you mean by 'technically inclined'. Could you clarify? I don't have confident estimates on relative probabilities, but I agree that totalitarianism is important to have on our radar. It's also a very delicate risk to handle, as it points directly to the highest bastions of power. Interestingly, totalitarianism risk resonates well with certain political conservatives who might otherwise dismiss gcr talk as alarmist. At any rate, I would not discourage you from looking into totalitarianism risk further. First, I commend you for thinking in terms of deconstructed narratives and narratives as tools. I'm curious as to your background. Most people I know who self-identify as 'technically inclined' cannot speak coherently about narrative construction. This is something I think about a lot. One narrative I use comes from James Martin's book 'The Meaning of the 21st Century'. The title on its own offers a narrative, essentially the same as in Martin Rees's 'Our Final Century'. Within the book, Martin speaks of this era of human civil
Long-term reasons to favour self-driving cars

I just finished reading David Owen's book 'The Conundrum' which is a exploration of unintended consequences and macroeconomic effects of Jevon's Paradox. It's too long for me to properly summarize right now, but he makes what seemed to me strong arguments that: there are many situations where efficiency gains open up technology frontiers which lead to more consumption (transistors were not just "much more efficient vacuum tubes"); and that automobile consumption has been one of the most damaging technologies of the 20th century, leading to vast ... (read more)

Seth Baum AMA next Tuesday on the EA Forum

I just signed up in order to take part in the AMA. Really looking forward to it! Is it happening on this forum or on Reddit?

Great! It's on this forum on Tuesday.