Matt Goodman

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Bad Omens in Current Community Building

There's a joke that whatever the question is in Bible Study, the correct answer is always 'God', 'Jesus', or 'The Bible'. I think it would be bad if the EA equivalent to that became 'AI', 'Existential risk' and 'Randomised controlled trials' .

On the other hand, discussion relies on  people having a shared pool of information, and I think it's very easy to overestimate how much common information people share. I've found in group discussions it's common that someone who's not an regular to the discussions will bring a whole set of talking points, articles, authors, ideas etc that I had no idea even existed till then. Which is great, except I don't know what to say in response except 'uh, what was the name of that? I'll have to read into it' .

The Liberation Pledge

Hi nico, Thanks for the post, I only skim read it as it's quite long so if this is answered in the article already, please link the part.

Do you have any comments from people who have taken the pledge on how it's going? I'd be really interested to read the results of a survey of pledgers with questions asked before and after taking the pledge. Questions like : how often do you eat with non vegans (days per month) ? How often do you eat with vegans? How often do you talk about your diet and the reasons for it with non-vegans? On average how do receptive do non vegans seem to your diet and reasons for it (sliding scale rating)?

My worry with this is the pledge could cause those who take it to be more insular in their vegan communities and engage less with those outside them. For example, they may be eating alongside non vegans and having constructive discussions, but after taking the pledge they only eat with vegans.

It could also reinforce the negative stereotype about vegans being aggressive with their moral views.

So I would be really interested to test these concerns, even it's just anecdotes or a small survey.

We're Lincoln Quirk & Ben Kuhn from Wave, AMA!

Hi, could you expand a little more on how using Wave is advantageous to other methods of transferring money? You mention not using bank transfers, what are the advantages, difficulties and disadvantages? Are there any other start ups that offer a similar service to you?

EA views on the AUKUS security pact?

"The precedent set by use of nuclear technologies, and whether this counts as nuclear proliferation given that it is nuclear powered submarines rather than nuclear warheads"

Complicating this, I believe some of the submarines are ballistic missile submarines i.e. they're adding to Australia's strike capability, although they won't have nuclear warheads,which is relevant e.g. in a preemptive attack against a nuclear launch site, with conventional missiles.

Off-topic, but if you're interested in UK policy and non-proliferation, it's worth noting that the UK recently announced an increase in the number of nuclear warheads it has, which seems to me to be a clear breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. I've written about in on the EA forum here

Risks from the UK's planned increase in nuclear warheads

Just coming back to this- thanks for these comments! In light of your and Lark's comments I'd no longer endorse this section: "Some research on nuclear winter...". I'll be very interested to hear your coming

However I'm still very concerned by the precedent this sets for nuclear non-proliferation. This move seems a pretty clear breach of the non-proliferation treaty , and  the risks  it created of a new nuclear arms race remains the central thing that I'm worried about. 

Perhaps more relevant to that since this was published is the new of the new AUKUS security pact. I'm really glad to see that being discussed on the EA Forum here.

AMA: Jeremiah Johnson, Director/Founder of the Neoliberal Project

Thanks for the link. I'm not making any claim on wikipedia a being good or bad source of political information - I'm simply noting that it's the first google result, and may be representative of what the majority of people think when they hear the term 'neoliberal'. Certainly up to this point I'd only heard it used as an anti-capitalism slur.

 So I'm interested to hear whether Jeremiah views this is a conscious decision to reclaim the term (as you said), and what to degree his beliefs actually align with the slur-term definition (which is very loosely defined).

AMA: Jeremiah Johnson, Director/Founder of the Neoliberal Project

How did you come to choose the name 'neoliberal'? The first Google result for the term 'neoliberalism' gives the following Wikipedia definition: 

"Neoliberalism is contemporarily used to refer to market-oriented reform policies such as "eliminating price controls, deregulating capital markets, lowering trade barriers" and reducing, especially through privatization and austerity, state influence in the economy.'

Which seems only partially aligned with your stated beliefs and contradictory to 'a robust social safety net' 

(Edited link formatting)

Questions for Howie on mental health for the 80k podcast

Hi Howie,

  • I've noticed in myself a dicotomy between wanting truth at any cost and wanting emotional preservation. For example, it may be true that billions of animals and humans suffer, but it may not bring me happiness to believe that, or at least to think about it a lot. Do you experience this dichotomy, and if so, how do you handle it? -Do you prefer fixed working hours or flexible hours? If your hours aren't fixed, how do you decide how hard/ how many hours to work? How do you know when you've worked too much?
  • Are there any parts of your work that predictably improve your mental health and happiness, and are there any that predictably deteriorate it? If do, do you think these things are unique to you, or do they generalise across different people and jobs?
Risks from the UK's planned increase in nuclear warheads

Thanks for your comment, it has forced my to clarify in my mind a few things, specifically the distinction between 100 nuclear weapons, and the smoke from 100 destroyed cities - in this manner I misinterpreted the report I was quoting.

In this 80 000 hours interview,  Daniel Ellsberg talks about 100 warheads being an upper bound for how many nuclear weapons a country needs to provide an effective nuclear deterrent. Quoting:

"As Herbert York put it...  how many weapons does it take to deter an enemy that is capable of being deterred from a nuclear attack? And he said one or 10, or if you really stretch, a hundred. He got to that by saying 100 weapons give you the capability of one individual to destroy as many people as died in World War 2, 60 million in a day or two. It shouldn’t have more than that.

So he said the number you need for this purpose then is between one to 10 to 100, and closer to one than 100."

If he's correct, the UK doesn't need any more nuclear weapons than it already has to provide an effective deterrent, and it could have less weapons, and still have an effective deterrent. 

some fraction of your warheads could be destroyed prior to use, increasing the ex ante number required for deterrence.

I don't think this is true for the UK's nuclear deterrence strategy. The UK's nuclear warheads are launched only from four Vanguard-class submarines.  Each one carries 8  (but can carry up to 16) Trident nuclear missiles, and at least one is on active service at any one time. This last part is crucial- the deterrence strategy relies on the location of the active submarine and  its' warheads being very hard to detect, and I would argue the number of warheads beyond a certain point is irrelevant to deterrence. 

All this is to say that that I don't think the argument that 'we need more nukes to have a valid deterrent' is valid, and I think we can have a valid deterrent with less nukes that we currently have. Even if I did believe that increasing the UK's number of nukes increased our deterrent, I would think that the additional danger this could cause by triggering a new arms race, would be more dangerous for the UK and the world.

 I must admit I feel a profound disgust reflex to the idea that any one country theoretically has the power to destroy almost all human life on earth, and I strongly dislike the idea of my country being able to do so.  I do not trust our leaders, or any other world leader, to have that power. 

The Comparability of Subjective Scales

Thanks for writing this Michael, it seems to be a really important topic to have explored. I particularly respect this conclusion: "Not only does there not seem to be a problem where we feared there might be one, but we may well be able to fix the problem if we later discover it does exist."

 My impression is that it's very rare for academics to do research into a topic and then write a conclusion that says "actually this isn't that important,  and it might not be a problem". In fact, I think academics  might often  overstate the importance of the problem they are working on. I think a few reasons for this could be:

-Academics might feel more satisfied in their own work if they feel they're solving an important problem, and less satisfied working on problems that turn out to be unimportant. 

-Academics gain social and professional credit for working on 'important' problems, and loose it for working on problems that turn out to be not important.

-Academics stand to gain further research funding if they can convince people the problem they're working on is important and pressing.

-Academics often work intensely on one field of research and don't see the 'bigger picture', which leads they genuinely believe whatever they're working on is more important than it is.

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