Arjun Panickssery

401 karmaJoined Feb 2022


The relevant part of the Cowen talk:

I think for virtually all social movements, I have a saying, and that is “demographics is destiny”. And you may like this or you may not like it. But it is also true for people in effective altruism. It's been true for people who are libertarianism. So if you look at early libertarianism, say in the 1970s, it had a very particular logical structure. But the actual descriptive fact of the matter was that a lot of libertarians were nerdy white males and some other set of libertarians were non-nerdy, somewhat rural, kind of gun owning anti-authoritarian, very US American white males who had a particular set of grudges. And what you end up getting from libertarianism is some evolution of those socioeconomic groups, which again, you might like or you might not like. But if you're evaluating libertarianism, you have to think a bit, well, what are the natural constituencies? What will those demographics get you? Do you like all of that? And are you ready for the stupider version of the theory? 

So there's like the Robert Nozick super smart, very sophisticated libertarianism. But of course, that's not what you get. You get the stupider version. So you have to ask with effective altruism, well, what is the stupider version of effective altruism and what are its demographics and what does that mean is its destiny? I have limited experience in the EA movement, but at least in the United States, and I would readily admit other countries may differ. In the United States, it's quite young, very high IQ, very coastal, very educated, but broadly people with the social conscience. None of that should be surprising, right? But I think the demographics of the EA movement are essentially the US Democratic Party. And that's what the EA movement over time will evolve into. If you think the existential risk is this kind of funny, weird thing, it doesn't quite fit. Well, it will be kind of a branch of Democratic Party thinking that makes philanthropy a bit more global, a bit more effective. I wouldn't say it's a stupider version, but it's a less philosophical version that's a lot easier to sell to non-philosophers. Just so you end up telling people you should think more broadly about how you should give money at the margin, I agree with that. I'm fine with it. But it's simply another way of thinking about what effective altruism really is, just as it is with libertarianism, just to understand that demographics is destiny. 

I gave a talk to an EA group lately, and I'm always like a troll when I give these talks. That's on purpose, but I'm saying things I believe, to be clear. I'm not making up stuff I don't believe. So I said to them all, you EAers, you should be more religious, and a lot of you should be social conservatives, because social conservatism is actually better for human welfare. I didn't mean that in the sense of government coercively enforcing social conservatism on people, but just people voluntarily being more socially conservative. I said a lot of you should do a lot more to copy the Mormons. Maybe now I would say the Quakers, other groups too. What was striking to me was how shocked everyone was by this point. I'm not saying they should have agreed or not agreed, but they hadn't ever heard it before. Will McAskill said this in his podcast with me. He said, oh, where are all social liberals? That doesn't really follow at all. It's something you can debate. But the fact that so many people took it for granted to me gets back at this point. When it comes to EA, demographics is destiny, and the future of socially conservative EA is really not that strong, but it should be. And after my talk, a woman went up to me and she came over and she whispered in my ear and she said, you know, Tyler, I actually am a social conservative and an effective altruist, but please don't tell anyone. I thought that was awesome. And of course, I didn't tell anyone who she was. But the mere fact that she felt the need to whisper this to me gets back to demographics is destiny. 

So in part, when you think about EA, don't just think about the philosophic propositions. Think about what it is, what it is becoming. And again, in the United States, at least, it is a very specific set of sociological connections that will shape its future. I like many of those trends at the margin, but I would say not all of them. And just looking at EA that way would be another way in which I differ from a lot of the effective altruists themselves, noting that when I mentioned social conservatism, they just all were shocked. I don't think they agreed with me, but for me, the important point was that they were shocked that I would bring up such a thing. They just took it for granted that effective altruist people ought to be social liberals. 

  • About a year ago, I published a list of research questions that could be valuable and important to gain clarity on. I still mostly endorse this list (though I wouldn’t write it just as is today).

Could you expand on "though I wouldn’t write it just as is today"?

Had less fake meat protein at meals and added more fresh fruit and veggies.

Was this the feedback from the survey? I (hazily) remember the meat substitutes running out faster than the fruit.

Tabarrok's paper (see the 5th page of the PDF): https://mason.gmu.edu/~atabarro/PrivateProvision.pdf

I think that if exactly 10 people take the contract, then the ones who didn't don't benefit by giving me money and the ones who did don't benefit from keeping their $20 since the post is more valuable than the $20 to them? Note that my game theory knowledge is unexceptional. 

I've used this feature exactly once, to meet a group of friends who were all in DC last summer but spread out afterward. Swapcard also has a group chat feature, where we actually coordinated the timing. Scheduling the group meeting on Swapcard was just to book the time so that other attendees wouldn't try to book meetings with us then.

They had this at EAGx Rotterdam and it was very nice. The area was marked off with a sign and you could walk around there joining conversations when you weren't in a meeting.

Making it impossible to book 1:1s sounds annoying, but since a lot of people like to schedule a break from 1:1s for themselves and would enjoy hanging out with other people during that gap, a somewhat arbitrary "Schelling break time" could help them coordinate.

Disclaimer: I didn't read the whole post

But taking just this wager:

If moral realism is true, I'll give you a hundred dollars. If it’s false, I’ll burn you, your family, and a hundred innocent children alive.

You should accept this wager, since if moral realism is false then by definition it doesn't matter whether anyone is tortured or not.

I didn't follow the meaningfulness to the argument of the natural/non-natural distinction but from this quote it looks like your view doesn't depend on it:

tricky objection: namely, that this deal seems bad even if you have this pattern of credences – i.e., even if non-naturalist realism and nihilism are genuinely the only live options. That is, you may notice that you don’t want to be burned alive, even if nihilism is true, and it doesn’t matter that you’re being burned alive

The perception you notice is just an intuition against moral non-realism. If moral realism isn't true, it doesn't matter what you want.

And what you optimise for should depend on what you're writing. Sometimes I primarily optimise for A) making readers have true beliefs about what I believe. Other times I primarily optimise for B) providing readers with tools that help them come to their own conclusions.

When I'm doing B, it doesn't matter what they believe I believe. If out of ten things I say, nine will be plain wrong, but one thing will be so right that it helps the reader do something amazing with their lives, I consider that a solid success.

cf. https://slatestarcodex.com/2019/02/26/rule-genius-in-not-out/

Was just about to post this

I also like Scott Adams's list of generic skills that "make you luckier" if you're good at most of them:

Public speaking
Business Writing
Design (the basics)
Overcoming Shyness
Second language
Proper grammar
Technology ( hobby level)
Proper voice technique

(though some—golf stands out—are kind of idiosyncratic)

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