Owen Cotton-Barratt

6236Joined Aug 2014


Topic Contributions

I agree with all this. I meant to state that I was assuming logarithmic returns for the example, although I do think some smoothness argument should be enough to get it to work for small shifts.

Sorry I don't have a link. Here's an example that's a bit more spelled out (but still written too quickly to be careful):

Suppose there are two possible worlds, S and L (e.g. "short timelines" and "long timelines"). You currently assign 50% probability to each. You invest in actions which help with either until your expected marginal returns from investment in either are equal. If the two worlds have the same returns curves for actions on both, then you'll want a portfolio which is split 50/50 across the two (if you're the only investor; otherwise you'll want to push the global portfolio towards that).

Now you update either that S is 1% more likely (51%, with L at 49%).

This changes your estimate of the value of marginal returns on S and on L. You rebalance the portfolio until the marginal returns are equal again -- which has 51% spending on S and 49% spending on L.

So you eliminated the marginal 1% spending on L and shifted it to a marginal 1% spending on S. How much better spent, on average, was the reallocated capital compared to before? Around 1%. So you got a 1% improvement on 1% of your spending.

If you'd made a 10% update you'd get roughly a 10% improvement on 10% of your spending. If you updated all the way to certainty on S you'd get to shift all of your money into S, and it would be a big improvement for each dollar shifted.

On the face of it an update 10% of the way towards a threshold should only be about 1% as valuable to decision-makers as an update all the way to the threshold.

(Two intuition pumps for why this is quadratic: a tiny shift in probabilities only affects a tiny fraction of prioritization decisions and only improves them by a tiny amount; or getting 100 updates of the size 1% of the way to a threshold is super unlikely to actually get you to a threshold since many of them are likely to cancel out.)

However you might well want to pay for information that leaves you better informed even if it doesn't change decisions (in expectation it could change future decisions).

Re. arguments split across multiple posts, perhaps it would be ideal to first decide the total prize pool depending on the value/magnitude of the total updates, and then decide on the share of credit allocation for the updates. I think that would avoid the weirdness about post order or incentivizing either bundling/unbundling considerations, while still paying out appropriately more for very large updates.

Ah, got you. There are a few people employed in small projects; things with a similar autonomous status to the orgs, but not yet at a scale where it makes sense for them to be regarded as "new orgs".

Technically speaking all employees of the constituent organizations are "employees of EV" (for one of the legal entities that's part of EV).

Yep, your interpretation is correct. We didn't want to make a big deal about this rebrand because for most people the associations they have with "CEA" are for the organization which is still called CEA. (But over the years, and especially as the legal entity has grown and taken on more projects, we've noticed a number of times where the ambiguity between the two has been somewhat frustrating.) Sorry for the confusion!

FWIW I think people are normally more concerned with flawed realisation scenarios than stagnation scenarios. (I'm not sure whether this changes your basic point.)

Thanks, I liked all of this. I particularly agree that "adequately communicating just how much wisdom you can find in EA/LW" is important.

Maybe I want it to be perceived more like a degree you can graduate from?

Yeah maybe I should have been more explicit that I'm very keen on people who've never spent time in EA hubs going and doing that and getting deeply up to speed; I'm more worried about the apparent lack of people who've done that then going into explore mode while keeping high bandwidth with the core.

Oh yeah I'm also into this. I was thinking of getting them more involved with EA directly as something that's already socially supported/encouraged by the community (which is great), but other ways to tap into their knowledge would be cool.

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