1055Joined Nov 2018


FHI - RA to Nick Bostrom (previously RA to Toby Ord on The Precipice)


Topic Contributions

This break even analysis would be more appropriate if the £15m had been ~burned, rather than invested in an asset which can be sold.

If I buy a house for £100k cash and it saves me £10k/year in rent (net costs), then after 10 years I've broken even in the sense of [cash out]=[cash in], but I also now have an asset worth £100k (+10y price change), so I'm doing much better than 'even'.

Agreed.  And from perspective of the EA portfolio, the investment has some diversification benefits. YTD Oxford property prices are up +8% , whereas the rest of the EA portfolio (Meta/Asana/crypto) has dropped >50%.

More and more media outlets are reporting [...]

I think the use of present tense here is a bit misleading, since almost all of these articles are from 5 or 6 weeks ago. 

I'd love to see the Guesstimate model linked in the report, but the link doesn't work for me.

Hi Haydn — the paper is about eruptions of magnitude 7 or greater, which includes magnitude 8. The periodicity figure I quote for magnitude 8 is taken directly from the paper. 

Hi Eli — this was my mistake; thanks for flagging. We'll correct the post.

Crossposting Carl Shulman's comment on a recent post 'The discount rate is not zero', which is relevant here:

It's quite likely the extinction/existential catastrophe rate approaches zero within a few centuries if civilization survives, because:

  1. Riches and technology make us comprehensively immune to  natural disasters.
  2. Cheap ubiquitous detection, barriers, and sterilization make civilization immune to biothreats
  3. Advanced tech makes neutral parties immune to the effects of nuclear winter.
  4. Local cheap production makes for small supply chains that can regrow from disruption as industry becomes more like information goods.
  5. Space colonization creates robustness against local disruption.
  6. Aligned AI blocks threats from misaligned AI (and many other things).
  7. Advanced technology enables stable policies (e.g. the same AI police systems enforce treaties banning WMD war for billions of years), and the world is likely to wind up in some stable situation (bouncing around until it does).

If we're more than 50% likely to get to that kind of robust state, which I think is true, and I believe Toby  does as well, then the life expectancy of civilization is very long, almost as long on a log scale as with 100%.

Your argument depends on  99%+++ credence that such safe stable states won't be attained, which is doubtful for 50% credence, and quite implausible at that level. A classic paper by the climate economist Martin Weitzman shows that the average discount rate over long periods  is set by the lowest plausible rate (as the possibilities of high rates drop out after a short period and you get a constant factor penalty for the probability of low discount rates, not exponential decay).

I doubt those coming up with the figures you cite believe per century risk is about 20% on average

Indeed! In The Precipice, Ord estimates a 50% chance that humanity never suffers an existential catastrophe (p.169).

Nuclear war similarly can be justified without longtermism, which we know because this has been the case for many decades already

Much of the mobilization against nuclear risk from the 1940s onwards was explictly grounded in the threat of human extinction — from the Russell-Einsten manifesto to grassroots movements like Women Strike for Peace with the slogan "End the Arms Race not the Human Race"

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