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I have a background in computer science (BSc+MSc; my MSc thesis was in NLP and ML, though not in deep learning).

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Comments

Promoting Effective Giving and Giving What We Can within EA Groups

Regarding the first potential change: It seems to me helpful (consider also "inclined" -> "inclined/able"). Regarding the second one, I was not sure at first that "resign" here means ceasing to follow through after having taken the pledge.

For both changes, consider wording it such that it's clear that we should consider the runway / financial situation factors over a person's entire life (rather than just their current plans and financial situation) and the substantial uncertainties that are involved.

Promoting Effective Giving and Giving What We Can within EA Groups

Hi Luke,

I recommend expanding the discussion in the "Things to be careful of" section. In particular, it seems worthwhile to estimate the impact of people in EA not having as much runway as they could have.

You mentioned that some people took The Pledge and did not follow through. It's important to also consider the downsides in situations where people do follow through despite regretting having taken The Pledge. People in EA are selected for scrupulousness which probably correlates strongly with pledge-keeping. As an aside, maybe it's worth adding to The Pledge (or The Pledge 2.0?) some text such that the obligation is conditional on some things (e.g. no unanticipated developments that would make the person regret taking the pledge).

How much does a vote matter?

When one assumes that the number of people that are similar to them (roughly speaking) is sufficiently small, I agree.

How much does a vote matter?

The costs are higher for people who value the time of people that are correlated with them, while the benefits are not.

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How much does a vote matter?

Wikipedia's entry on superrationality probably explains the main idea here better than me.

Thoughts on whether we're living at the most influential time in history

I don’t make any claims about how likely it is that we are part of a very long future. Only that, a priori, the probability that we’re *both* in a very large future *and* one of the most influential people ever is very low. For that reason, there aren’t any implications from that argument to claims about the magnitude of extinction risk this century.

I don't understand why there are implications from that argument to claims about the magnitude of our influentialness either.

As an analogy, suppose Alice bought a lottery ticket that will win her $100,000,000 with an extremely small probability. The lottery is over, and she is now looking at the winning numbers on her phone, comparing them one by one to the numbers on her ticket. Her excitement grows as she finds more and more of the winning numbers on her ticket. She managed to verify that she got 7 numbers right (amazing!), but before she finished comparing the rest of the numbers, her battery died. She tries to find a charger, and in the meantime she's considering whether to donate the money to FHI if she wins. It occurs to her that the probability that *both* [a given person wins the lottery] *and* [donating $100,000,000 to FHI will reduce existential risk] is extremely small. She reasons that, sure, there are some plausible arguments that donating $100,000,000 to FHI will have a huge positive impact, but are those arguments strong enough considering her extremely small prior probability in the above conjunction?

Thoughts on whether we're living at the most influential time in history

This topic seems extremely important and I strongly agree with your core argument.

As Will notes, following Brian Tomasik and others, the simulation argument dampens enthusiasm for influencing the far future.

There is no reason for longtermists to care specifically about "the far future" (interpreted as our future light cone, or whatever spacetime we can causally affect). Most longtermists probably intrinsically care about all of spacetime across Reality. Even if the probability that we are not in a short simulation is 1e-50, longtermists still have strong reasons to strive for existential security. One of those reasons is that striving for existential security would make all civilizations that are similar to us (i.e. civilizations that their behavior is correlated with ours) more likely to successfully use their cosmic endowment in beneficial ways.

Regarding the part about the outside view argument being also an argument against patient philanthropy: this seems to depend on some non-obvious assumptions. If the population size in some future year X is similar to today's population size, and the fraction of wealth generated until X but not inherited by people living in X is sufficiently small, then a random person living in X will be able to donate an amount that is similar (in expectation) to the worth of a patient-philanthropy-fund that was donated by a random person living today.

How much does a vote matter?

If I'm in the voting booth, and I suddenly decide to leave the ballot blank, how does that affect anyone else?

It doesn't affect anyone else in a causal sense, but it does affect people similar to you in a decision-relevant-to-you sense.

Imagine that while you're in the voting booth, in another identical voting booth there is another person who is an atom-by-atom copy of you (and assume our world is deterministic). In this extreme case, it is clear that you're not deciding just for yourself. When we're talking about people who are similar to you rather than copies of you, a probabilistic version of this idea applies.

How much does a vote matter?

What I mean to say is that, roughly speaking, one should compare the world where people like them vote to the world where people like them don't vote, and choose the better world. That can yield a different decision than when one decides without considering the fact that they're not deciding just for themselves.

How much does a vote matter?

What I wrote is indeed aligned with evidential decision theory (EDT). The objections to EDT that you mentioned don't seem to apply here. When you decide whether to vote you don't decide just for yourself, but rather you decide (roughly speaking) for everyone who is similar to you. The world will become better or worse depending on whether it's good or bad that everyone-who-is-similar-to-you decides to vote/not-vote.

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