All of Matt g's Comments + Replies

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 re... (read more)

1DavidZhang2moThanks, I'm surprised the UK's proliferation didn't get more attention!
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 ... (read more)

2MichaelA2mo(Btw, on non-proliferation and arms racing, there are some relevant forecasts as part of the Nuclear Risk Forecasting Tournament [] I'm putting together with Metaculus, and there will be more put up next week and then again over the coming months. I'll also write up some summaries later.)
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)

7JeremiahJohnson2moThe term came from wonkish people who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primary being called 'neoliberals' by Bernie Sanders supporters and general leftists. There was a sense of "If supporting Hillary and being a wonk is being a neoliberal, fine, I'm a neoliberal".

The idea was to reclaim what was previously a slur and turn it into a positive term, similar to what LGB people did with 'queer' and so on. This essentially began with Southwood and Bowman in 2016, and the Adam Smith Institute more generally. 

While wikipedia is generally very good I wouldn't necessarily rely on it for left-right wing issues due to the aggregate bias of the editors. 

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 pr
... (read more)
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 a

... (read more)
2MichaelA3moTo add to what Larks said, I would also say that: * it's not the case that "Some research on nuclear winter [] suggests that 100 Hiroshima- sized nuclear detonations would be enough to destroy the majority of human life on earth" * even the smaller claim that that research does make is contested and some parts of it are based on pretty shoddy methods (especially the reasoning to go from reduced crop yields to famine death) * "the majority of human life on earth" would in any case be less than "almost all human life on earth", and the distinction might matter a lot from an existential risk perspective (since recovery looks much less likely if we have 0.01% of people left than if we have 1%, and much less likely with 1% than with 40%) To expand on that: * I don't remember what the specific paper you cite claims about how many deaths would occur, and I can't quickly find it from skimming, but more recent work by the same authors tends to make the claim that there might be ~2 billion deaths. That is a hell of a lot, but also "only" 25% of the world's population. * And that number is based in part on this non-peer-reviewed report by an advocacy organisation [], the methodology in which is very shoddy. (One key issue, from memory, is that it basically argues for "2 billion people could be food insecure", and then later implies that it had argued for "2 billion people could die of famine", despite the fact that there's a big difference between those two things.) * And other authors [] question other parts of the models leading to that estimate. (I have more detailed notes on all of this, which I could share on request, but they're not polished.)
2MichaelA3moIf that's roughly the case (which I haven't looked into), then it seems like the UK's "secure second strike" capability is actually ~1/4 of its total number of warheads. In which case an increase to 260 is increasing to a secure second strike capability of 65, i.e. still less than 100. On the other hand, that Ellsberg quote seems to be simply saying that 100 should be the upper limit, rather than specifying "100 that would likely survive a nuclear first strike against that state". But that mostly just makes me think that that quote shouldn't be given much weight. Other things that make me think that are that: * he's just one person * this is just a podcast interview so may lack some of the nuance of his full views * I think some of his claims in that interview and his book are over-the-top or misleading (though I also found parts of that interview and his book useful) * (I could see if I have notes that would allow me to elaborate, if you'd like) Btw, I'm drafting a post on "What would be the ideal size and composition of nuclear arsenals?", which I hope to post to the Forum ~October (I'm working on various other things in parallel). I definitely won't have definitive answers, and it'll probably mostly just shallowly highlight various considerations and minor arguments, but may still be of interest to you and to readers of this post.
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 importa... (read more)

Where are you donating in 2020 and why?

This coming year I am setting a target of donating £2000, going to:

  • Around 30%: Eliminating extreme suffering (OPIS):

In my life I have had the misfortune of experiencing extreme pain a few times. This pain  required strong painkillers (e.g. morphine) to kill. These experiences had a hugely outsized impact on my wellbeing in relation to their duration, due to the intensity of the suffering I felt. The thought of not having access to pain relief in these moments of suffering is terrifying, and as such I believe eliminating or reducing extreme suffering s... (read more)

2MichaelA1yThanks for sharing this reasoning :) Just for any readers who might be unfamiliar with that phrase, I believe it's a reference to the well-worth-reading post Purchase Fuzzies and Utilons Separately [] .
The Subjective Experience of Time: Welfare Implications

(In paragraph 1 of the executive summary): "Based on human reports of alterations in the subjective experience of time ....I estimate there is a ~70% chance that there exist morally relevant differences in the subjective experience of time across species."

Could you expand on what these 'human reports' are? Is this just referring to anecdotal human reports of time sometimes appearing to go faster or slower?

2Jason Schukraft1yHi Matt, Yes, the reference is to people reporting that time appears to slow down during life-threatening events, such as fighter pilots ejecting from their jets and rock climbers suffering serious falls. People on certain psychedelic drugs also sometimes report that time seems to stretch out. I discuss these reports in more detail in this section [] .
AMA: Rob Mather, founder and CEO of the Against Malaria Foundation

Your website is quite basic but you've recently advertised that you're hiring a web developer. How much/ what kind of value do you expect a new web developer to add to AMF?

2RobM2yYou are very kind – our website is hopelessly out of date! We are currently working with a web design company who is helping us pro bono and we have made very good progress on the new design. We expect the new website design to be better in a number of important ways including: clearer in explaining what we do, easier to navigate (the aim is 'intuitively navigable'), easier to access content and responsive to different devices used to view the site. We are hiring a technology developer and that person will increase our overall technology capability that is primarily focused on managing and developing database-related functionality.