Founders Pledge Report: Psychedelic-Assisted Mental Health Treatments

Thank you for all the work that went into this - I'm very happy that it exists!


A couple points from our correspondence that might be interesting to readers here as well -

From the report:

The evidence on increased prosocial attitudes and behaviours and improvements in subjective well-being is weak. We found only one experimental study that used direct subjective well-being measures before and after taking a psychedelic, and it found no statistically significant improvement.[51] That said, two studies—a prospective[52] and an unpublished[53] one—found improvements on a composite well-being scale and multiple studies found self-reported, self-attributed improvements of subjective well-being, i.e. participants stated that they think the psychedelic experience improved their well-being and prosocial behaviour and attitudes.

I wish this discussion of Griffiths et al. 2006 (footnote [51]):

  1. specified that only one aspect of subjective well-being (affective balance) was measured. Life satisfaction isn't measured by PANAS.
  2. noted that community observers detected a positive change in participant behavior & attitudes (but not in control's behavior & attitudes) two months after the session (see the bottom of Table 4). A third-party observer report of behavior & attitudinal change seems much more objective than a participant self-report of such changes.

Also interesting here – individuals may rescale their assessments of subjective well-being over time. I speculate that the particulars of the psychedelic experience may drive rescaling like this in an intense way.

Crucial questions for longtermists

Thanks for this!

fwiw I would definitely bucket consciousness research and neuroimaging under "strategy", though agree that the bucketing is somewhat arbitrary.

Crucial questions for longtermists

I propose two additions to this list:

  • Improving our understanding of consciousness / conscious experience
  • Improving our neuroimaging capabilities

Without a solid theory of consciousness, our views about what matters will keep being based on moral intuitions and it will be hard to make progress on disputes.

How Dependent is the Effective Altruism Movement on Dustin Moskovitz and Cari Tuna?

See also: What's the best structure for optimal allocation of EA capital?

So EA is currently in a regime wherein the large majority of capital flows from a single source, and capital allocation is set by a small number of decision-makers.
Rough estimate: if ~60% of Open Phil grantmaking decisioning is attributable to Holden, then 47.2% of all EA capital allocation, or $157.4M, was decided by one individual in 2017. 2018 & 2019 will probably have similar proportions.
It seems like EA entered into this regime largely due to historically contingent reasons (Cari & Dustin developing a close relationship with Holden, then outsourcing a lot of their philanthropic decision-making to him & the Open Phil staff).
It's not clear that this structure will lead to optimal capital allocation.
... A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities

A good thread (a) summarizing a paper on our current understanding of coronavirus transmission dynamics. A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities

Though perhaps the effect size they found is implausibly large...

Expressed as relative risk, vitamin D reduced the risk of ICU admission 25-fold. Put another way, it eliminated 96% of the risk of ICU admission. Expressed as an odds ratio, which is a less intuitive concept but is often used in statistics because it gives an estimate of the effect of the treatment that would be constant across scenarios with different levels of risk, vitamin D reduced the odds of ICU admission by 98%. Either way, vitamin D practically abolished the need for ICU admission.

Would be great if this replicates in a bigger study. In the meantime, supplementing Vitamin D is cheap & safe.

More Vitamin D discussion: A tool to estimate COVID risk from common activities

In other covid news, we seem to be learning that Vitamin D supplementation is helpful.

A small RCT was recently published: Castillo et al. 2020

From Masterjohn's commentary (a):

The trial was conducted at the Reina Sofía University Hospital in Córdoba, Spain. The trial included 76 patients with COVID-19 pneumonia. Although this is no longer the standard of care, all patients were treated with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin and, when needed, a broad-spectrum antibiotic. Admission to the ICU was determined by a multidisciplinary committee consisting of intensive care specialists, pulmonologists, internal medicine specialists, and members of the ethics committee.
The patients were randomly allocated to receive or not receive vitamin D in a 2:1 ratio. This resulted in 50 patients in the vitamin D group and 26 patients in the control group.

From the abstract:

Of 50 patients treated with calcifediol [a form of Vitamin D], one required admission to the ICU (2%), while of 26 untreated patients, 13 required admission (50%) p-value X^2 Fischer test p < 0.001. Univariate Risk Estimate Odds Ratio for ICU in patients with Calcifediol treatment versus without Calcifediol treatment: 0.02 (95%CI 0.002-0.17).
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