Nat

Pursuing an undergraduate degree
51Joined Dec 2021

Bio

Participation
1

Hello! I'm a second year undergrad at UC Berkeley studying computer science. I'd like to learn more about AI safety, electoral politics, and student group organizing.

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Crosspost on GitHub Pages

Thanks to Jason Hausenloy for encouraging me to concretize and post these ideas.

EA Topics

Anecdotes of Parental Pressure on Career Choice

  • I haven't seen much discussion of this, but parental pressure may play a large impact on the career choices of young EAs.

Impacts of Consumption in EA

  • Some EA individuals and organizations in the Bay Area spend a lot to increase their productivity. What are the climate/labor/animal welfare effects of consumption on e.g. Ubers, DoorDashing all meals.

Anecdotes on the Flynn Campaign from OR-06 Constituents

  • We've seen retrospectives of Carrick Flynn's candidacy on the EA Forum, but it seems useful to gather more anecdotes from outsiders, particularly those engaged in electoral politics or living in OR-06.

Earthquake Prep Guide

  • Many EAs live in earthquake-prone regions, such as California. Is earthquake risk significant enough to warrant individual preparedness? If so, a preparedness guide similar to Finan Anderson's on nuclear preparedness may be useful.

Anecdotes of Failed Targeted Outreach

  • There have been 4 occasions for which friends who I thought would be interested in EA and potentially valuable contributors, bounce off of the ideas/movement. Gather anecdotes and improving EA/outreach seems important.

Liberal Arguments for AI Safety

  • I haven't seen a compelling writing in support of AI Safety from a liberal perspective, e.g. discussion of why regulation of unfettered development/technological progress is important.

How much influence can individual state/federal senators/representatives/assemblypeople have on AI safety policy?

How university students should balance community building vs. building skills for direct work

Non-EA Topics

Advantageous Political Geography

  • Despite winning more than 50% of the popular vote, President Biden won in just 2 out of the 8 congressional districts in Wisconsin during the 2020 presidential election. Despite winning a third of the popular vote in the 2018 US House of Representatives elections in California, Republicans won just 7 of 46 seats - and this map was constructed by an independent redistricting commission! What influences how political geography favors parties?

Berkeley CS Course Staff

  • My favorite courses have been Berkeley CS courses, which are mostly run by undergraduate students who are usually between 19-22 years old. My favorite teachers have also been uGSIs from these courses, who don't have teaching credentials and are much younger than any K-12 teacher I've had. How do undergrads teach and organize these courses so well?

Prompting on Langage Model Answer Calibration

  • How much does confidence in an answer depend on the explanation that precedes it, and does model size play a role? How much does prompting with a flawed chain of reasoning affect calibration? How does using chain-of-thought prompting affect calibration? Self-consistency generates diverse completions using temperature and takes the majority answer; how does calibration differ between incorrect and correct COT completions?

Colorado is not a Rectangle

  • Colorado looks like this:
    Yet its border with New Mexico has this ~half mile indent: 

    why!?

Discoveries Ahead of Their Time

  • Nuclear weapons were developed 3-4 decades before the RSA cryptosystem, despite the former seeming much more technically complicated to develop than the latter. What other developments retrospectively seem ahead/behind their time?

The top comments seem mostly critical at the moment. This video was posted today and already has 1.2 million views (>100x the number of active EAs as of 2019!), so it might be useful to examine the reception from this video's general audience. Some of the critique so far:

  • The video is titled "Is Civilization on the Brink of Collapse?", but it doesn't directly answer this question and instead focuses on the consequences of civilizational collapse and a road to recovery.
  • Comparisions are mainly made to ancient civilizations. They don't bear much resemblance to modern society, which is more technologically developed and thus robust to risks such as pandemics.
  • Skepticism towards AI being an x-risk (AGI won't be developed for a very long time and is difficult to build)
  • The video seems like a sponsored PR effort advancing WWOTF's agenda.
  • The video was poorly researched:
    • The Bronze Age collapse was not mentioned, despite being a crucial civilizational collapse which regressed scientific and technological development.
    • The definition of "civilization" at the beginning of the video excludes societies which didn't have hierarchies or abolished them.
  • Omission of some important extinction scenarios, like supervolcano eruptions or asteroid impacts.
  • The video is Eurocentric and doesn't mention other cultures or empires.
  • The video is too optimistic/futuristic; it offers scientifically possible but implausible solutions for rebuilding civilization, and doesn't demonstrate how to overcome social and political hurdles.
  • This video and "The Last Human – A Glimpse Into The Far Future" place too much emphasis on hypothetical future people, which distracts from suffering in the present.

Hey Dev! I noticed you're attending Berkeley for college - just wanted to let you know that the city is a pretty large EA hub, and the university has an active EA club. Feel free to reach out if you'd like to chat more or join our student group slack :)

Crosspost on GitHub Pages

I aim to provide a brief overview of the 2022 US House of Representatives election in Oregon's 6th congressional district (OR-06), which some EAs have expressed interest in due to Carrick Flynn's candidacy. I am not affiliated with, nor do I claim to endorse any candidate in this election.

Background

In 2022, OR-06 will elect their congressperson to the US House of Representatives for a 2 year term. The Democratic and Republican primaries will occur on May 17th, 2022, and the general election will occur on November 8th, 2022. Oregon had previously been allotted 5 congressional districts, but it gained a seat from reapportionment following the 2020 census. OR-06 is a newly-created district with no incumbent [1] (thus no candidate with incumbency advantage), and serves portions of the Portland/Salem metropolitan areas, and rural communities in Yamhill and Polk County.

Primary Election

Barring Flynn, there are currently 8 other candidates in the Democratic primary: two self-financed crypto investors, two members of the Oregon House of Representatives, a commissioner on the county board which represents Portland, a Oregon Medical Board member, a progressive organizer and former candidate in OR-01, and a candidate I could not find public campaign information for. As Zach Stein-Perlman suggests, Flynn may have difficulty winning in a pool of candidates with with endorsements, name recognition, and electoral experience.

Campaign finance figures prior to December 2021 are listed on Ballotpedia - Flynn is not included as he did not file his candidacy until January 21st, 2022. However, Flynn has reported raising $430,000 in the his campaign's first ten days, and received $1.36 million from Sam Bankman-Fried's Protect the Future PAC in February 2022. Primary elections can also be highly volatile, due to being poorly-polled and having more candidates than general elections. I couldn't find any polling for this primary election either.

General Election

At of March 22nd, 2022, Metaculus has Flynn winning the primary at 40% and the general election at 30%, suggesting a 75% probability of winning the general conditional on winning the primary. Indeed, the University of Virginia Center for Politics, Cook Political Report, and Inside Elections all characterize this race as Likely Democratic. However, OR-06 doesn't have an incumbent or clear frontrunner in either primary, so electoral rating organizations can't strongly consider candidate quality to judge general election outcomes.

Empirically, the Democratic Party won OR-06 by 13 points in the 2020 presidential election[2], and FiveThirtyEight reports that OR-06 has a partisan lean of D+7, indicating that it has historically voted 7 points more Democratic than the country as a whole. General election results could also be conditional on candidate quality and the broader midterm political environment.

FiveThirtyEight Partisan Lean for OR-06

OR-06 contains more than half of the old OR-05, but the incumbent representative is running in the newly drawn OR-05 instead. ↩︎

Here are results for other recent elections in OR-06. ↩︎

Crosspost on GitHub Pages

On my first day of college - August 18th, 2021 - I decided to strive towards becoming vegetarian, primarily for animal welfare reasons. Before college, I consumed around a median American quantity of meat, but I decided to make this change because Berkeley has more accessible vegetarian options compared to home. Since then, I’ve avoided meat for roughly 90% of meals.

Thoughts:

  • Reducing my meat consumption has been surprisingly manageable so far - I've never craved the meat options at the dining hall because the food isn't great overall. In addition, I can order/cook my own food in college instead of eating the same meal as my family back home, so I have higher agency over what I eat. In January 2022, I was fortunate to eat great catered vegan food at MLAB, which made being vegetarian much easier at that time.
  • I wonder how much my reduction in meat consumption actually decreases meat production, and which actions are higher-impact than others; for example, unsure if eating vegetarian at my dining hall matters if they order the same amount of vegetarian/non-vegetarian food regardless of demand or throw away unserved leftovers.
  • It's not clear to me whether being vegetarian is effectively altruistic compared to other actions one could take, and I'm not sure if being vegetarian is more expensive than eating meat.
    • Example: I went to an EA retreat which catered vegetarian burgers that cost >$10 each. I'm curious whether it would be better to eat McDonalds and donating the difference to ACE-recommended charities.
  • This food impacts calculator by VilleSokk suggests that both caged and cage-free eggs both have higher animal welfare/carbon emissions impact per calorie than pork. Could some vegetarian diets increase harm by offsetting protein from meat with eggs?
  • I'm somewhat worried about being vegetarian next year, as I'll be cooking and meal-prepping with my non-vegetarian flatmates. It’s probably significantly more difficult to be vegetarian while living in or cooking for a non-vegetarian household, as buying/cooking separate meals for each other sounds challenging.
  • I consumed some meat with family during Thanksgiving and the first two weeks of winter break, and with friends on Chinese New Year. I haven’t eaten much Chinese food outside of large gatherings as it seems more difficult to remain vegetarian.
    • Food is shared in Chinese restaurants, in contrast to other situations where individuals buy their own plate of food; though its higher impact to get a whole table to eat vegetarian, it’s also significantly harder than just ordering vegetarian for oneself.
    • At festive Chinese meals, many dishes can have small amounts of meat (e.g. tofu with shredded meat).