Misha_Yagudin

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Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent

Thanks for bringing this up; I heard (and tried) something like that under a name of a mastermind group.

Coaching: Reduce Struggle and Develop Talent

Somewhat relatedly Ben Kuhn has an excellent blog post on doing one-on-ones with close friends/partners.

I have been doing them for a few years now and they have been very helpful. As of now, we have a 90-minute weekly session where we coach each other in turns; at various points, we did all of the techniques mentioned by OP but the core focus has always been on an extensive weekly review and planning.

There are problems with doing coaching/therapy-like stuff with friends: you might mess up relationships a bit; people might not be skilled enough to make the practice useful. On the other hand, these reviews can improve your friendship and are basically free (it is free as it doesn't cost anything, and is sorta free as you probably want to hang out with your friend either way). In our case, the weekly reviews made us closer friends (which is enough to justify it); and are generally highly valued by both of us as productivity/mental health aid.

I can imagine working with a coach leading to additional gains [via learning new techniques, getting pumped by trying something new, &c] but the current setup feels like at least an 80/20 option. One reservation I have about posting this is that my partner is an outlier in how much he cares about his productivity.

Building Blocks of Utility Maximization

re: footnote 1

The paper The Standard Errors of Persistence, you cite as a criticism says the following about the robustness of Peruan study:

This study examines differences in household consumption and child stunting on either side of Peru’s Mitaboundary. It finds that areas which traditionally had to provide conscripted mine labour have household consumption almost 30 per centlower than on the other side of the boundary. We examine the regression in column 1 of Table 2, which compares equivalent household consumption in a hundred kilometre strip on either side of the boundary with controls for distance to the boundary, elevation, slope and household characteristics. The variable of interest is a dummy for being inside the boundary. We examine here how well the regression explains arbitrary patterns of consumption generated as spatial noise. To do this we take the locations where households live and simulate consumption levels based on median consumption at the points. The original study found a 28 per cent difference in consumption levels across the historic boundary. If we normalize the noise variables to have the same mean and standard deviation as the original consumption data, we get a difference of at least 28 per cent (positive or negative) in 70 per cent of cases.

What do you think of that? In general, it seems that your justification for relative robustness doesn't engage with the critiques at all. My understanding of their major point is that spatial autocorrelations of residuals are unaccounted for and might make noise look significant. The simpler example of a common spurious relationship was, AFIAK, first described in Spurious regressions in econometrics (see this decently looking blogpost for relevant intuitions).

When pooling forecasts, use the geometric mean of odds

I endorse Nuño's comment re: 0.00000000001%.

While it's pretty easy to agree that a probability of a stupid mistake/typo is greater than 0.00000000001%, it is sometimes hard to follow in practice. I think Yudkowsky communicates it's well on a more visceral level in his Infinite Certainty essay. I got to another level of appreciation of this point after doing a calibration exercise for mental arithmetics — all errors were unpredictable "oups" like misreading plus for minus or selecting the wrong answer after making correct calculations.

What are examples of technologies which would be a big deal if they scaled but never ended up scaling?

For social technology, I think we have been consistently disappointed by various attempts to reform education. Specifically, think about interventions like direct instruction investigated under the Follow Through project and, maybe, intervention tested by Gates Foundation.

How students, groups, and community members can use funding

I would be happy if people started more specialized newsletters.

Think of Nuño's Forecasting Newsletter but for other areas of EA/longtermist interests (e.g. broad topics from various research agendas). This seems to be straightforwardly positive per the neoliberal movement growth playbook. On top of doing community service of keeping peers up to date with relevant research; a newsletter is a pretty nice way to get relevant connections outside of the EA movement, to do low-risk high-fidelity outreach to a target demographic of people interested in high-priority causes, to gain reputation and status, and to practice core research skill of writing well.

If newsletters will bloom, it might be worth it to hire someone to help with production. Would be kinda cool to call this network The Republic of Newsletters :)

Virtues for Real-World Utilitarians

Great! I broadly endorse the above virtues and can't say much on the object level. On meta-level, I am curious about how do you think about the impact of this paper. I have certain guesses:

  • The paper's conclusion says: "We hope that it should inspire a debate among philosophers and psychologists about what virtues utilitarians should prioritize the most." Is that it?
  • Or are you aiming at figuring out recommendations for EAs to follow (akin to CEA's Guiding principles and Lucius Caviola's talk Against naive effective altruism)?
  • Or maybe you want to re-associate utilitarianism with nice/warm virtues because it appears cold to some (like Bleeding Heart Libertarians was reframing libertarianism)?
Miranda_Zhang's Shortform

I think David Nash does something similar with his EA Updates (here is the most recent one). While most of the links are focused on EA Forum and posts by EA/EA-adj orgs, he features occasional links from other venues.

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