All of Noah Scales's Comments + Replies

Moral weights for various species and distributions

It's awkward to interpret mathematical judgements about a value that is described as an unknown and then as a supposition about one's internal process of deciding an arbitrary value for the unknown and finally as a possible range varying over a large magnitude for that unknown. That is what I decided that the report on consciousness (and the speculation about moral weights) describes.

I would like to learn more about how EA folks typically assign evidence for the presence of different kinds of consciousness or moral weight of different species. In particula... (read more)

Consequences Not Outcomes

Thank you for your comment. I think that in some cases,  subconscious calculations of expected value motivate actions. 

But I don't think that expected value calculations faithfully (reliably or consistently) represent a person's degree of conviction (or confidence) that an outcome occurs given the person's actions.

In particular, I suggest alternatives at work when people claim that their decision is to choose an expected value of very low probability and very high value:

  • that those people would have fun during the pursuit and so choose the pursuit
... (read more)
New cause area: bivalve aquaculture

Hi Brian,  short answer, yes. Of course.

Look into jellyfish as a food source. 

The death of the oceans is progressive and predictable, if you assume that causes of it continue into the future.

New cause area: bivalve aquaculture

Sure, I think you guys (and those folks at the UN) and the general topic of food security is incredibly important.

I am not working in this area professionally, nothing even close to it.

New cause area: bivalve aquaculture

Bivalves are a big part of the US fishing industry. You can explore some of the risks to them by looking over the recent history of their cultivation in the US and globally.

Ocean acidification, waste water outlets, garbage dumping, and storm water runoff are threats to pop-up farms over the next few decades. After that,  acidification combined with temperature and pollution could be too damaging, either to farming efforts or to the quality of the food. 

Ocean currents near shore can produce lower pH (e.g., 7.65 as opposed to global avg 8.04 (edit:... (read more)

1Brian Lui5d
Thanks, I didn't know most of this information! Also, I see two claims: 1. Coral reefs all lost by 2050 2. Death of all marine life within this century, with one claim that this will occur by 2050 The first one sounds quite serious and potentially very serious. The second one sounds catastrophic? I didn't know the magnitude of the risk was this big. Is this a cause area that could benefit from more funding or research, too?
Thanks for the reply Noah. Are you working on this field or a related one?
The Future Might Not Be So Great.

You wrote 

"There is a substantial philosophical literature on such topics that I will not wade into, and I believe such non-value-based arguments can be mapped onto value-based arguments with minimal loss (e.g., not having a duty to make happy people can be mapped onto there being no value in making happy people)."

Duty to accomplish X implies much more than an assessment of the value of X. To lack the (moral, legal, or ethical) obligation to bring about a state of affairs does not imply a sense that the state of affairs has no value to you or others.

A Choice Among Actions, Not a Choice Among Choices

Don't consider the act of choosing to be an action that is subject to an altruistic value score calculation of its potential consequences. By potential consequence I mean a consequence that you believe in. For some, such a consequence would be all the actions that you did not take. 

Keep in mind that altruistic value consequences are based on self-reports. Altruistic value calculations are what you do for yourself with yourself.


The initial sentences play on the word "authority". Barracuda implies that authority is a name for those with resources used in EA causes, that EA folks have resources, and that their elevated authority is something they prefer to keep while they will share their wealth only. Barracuda  states that EA efforts are not intended to further causes associated with social justice or democracy, but rather socioeconomic equality or health only.

Basically, I take the  criticism to be that EA depends on, or does not address or correct, political inequality.

Ideas to improve the Effective Altruism Movement

I bought a GPU some years ago.  My belief is that it's consequences were negligible or a small evil, so mildly anti-altruistic.

  • it was built by exploited labor. It's simply self-serving to suggest that exploiting labor is a necessary step in modernizing another country. In fact, the definition of exploitation lets me know that the labor is being treated harmfully. However, the actual suffering that the purchase itself caused is negligible in terms of encouraging additional exploitation because of how big the market is for GPU's. Notice I'm looking at t
... (read more)
Ideas to improve the Effective Altruism Movement

Thank you, Karthik

I don't have much time and don't expect much attention regardless of my time input to writing about this topic. It is boring, frankly. I am a boring writer. The best that I can do is keep it short.

Altruistic value is not objectively measurable.  If a creature like God existed, then she could judge the altruistic value of actions in terms of their consequences. Everyone else makes do with unreliable mental models that are bound by uncertain future circumstances.

As a brief thought experiment, if you have a sense that an action (for exa... (read more)

Open Thread: Spring 2022


Ideas to improve the Effective Altruism movement include:

* include scoring, ranking, and distance measures of the altruistic value of the outcome of all personal behaviors, including all spending behaviors.

* research the causal relations of personal behaviors and the altruistic value of the consequences of personal behaviors.

* treat altruistic value as a relative and subjective metric with positive, null, and negative possible values.

* provide public research and debate on the size and certainty of altruistic values assigned to all common human behav... (read more)