« If we are the only rational beings in the Universe, as some recent evidence suggests, it matters even more whether we shall have descendants or successors during the billions of years in which that would be possible. Some of our successors might live lives and create worlds that, though failing to justify past suffering, would have given us all, including those who suffered most, reasons to be glad that the Universe exists.» — Derek Parfit

Pablo_Stafforini's Comments

AMA: Toby Ord, author of "The Precipice" and co-founder of the EA movement

Source for the screenshot: Samuel Karlin & Howard E. Taylor, A First Course in Stochastic Processes, 2nd ed., New York: Academic Press, 1975.

Effects of anti-aging research on the long-term future

I'm also interested.

Anders Sandberg discusses the issue a bit in one of his conversations with Rob Wiblin for the 80k Podcast.

Why SENS makes sense
I once read a comment on the effective altruism subreddit that tried to explain why aging didn't get much attention in EA despite being so important, and I thought it was quite enlightening.

For background, here's the comment I wrote:

Longevity research occupies an unstable position in the space of possible EA cause areas: it is very "hardcore" and "weird" on some dimensions, but not at all on others. The EAs in principle most receptive to the case for longevity research tend also to be those most willing to question the "common-sense" views that only humans, and present humans, matter morally. But, as you note, one needs to exclude animals and take a person-affecting view to derive the "obvious corollary that curing aging is our number one priority". As a consequence, such potential supporters of longevity research end up deprioritizing this cause area relative to less human-centric or more long-termist alternatives.
Cost-Effectiveness of Aging Research
Crossposted from Hourglass Magazine

The entire "magazine" seems to have gone offline. SAD!

Thoughts on electoral reform

Thanks to your comment, I can now endorse what you said as a more accurate and nuanced version of the position my previous comment expressed. Agreed 100%.

Thoughts on electoral reform
I suspect that these results are very sensitive to model assumptions, such as tactical voting behaviour. But it would be interesting to see more work on VSE.

I agree with this. An approach I find promising is that of Nicolaus Tideman & Florenz Plassmann. In one study, the authors consider several different statistical models, use them to simulate actual elections, and rank the models by how best they approximate actual results. Then, in a subsequent study, the authors use the top-ranking model from their previous study to evaluate a dozen or so alternative voting rules, finding that plurality, anti-plurality, and Bucklin perform worst. As far as I'm aware, this is the only example of an attempt to assess voting rules by conducting simulations with a model that has been pre-fitted to actual election data. I believe that extending this approach may be among the most impactful research within this cause area.

Thoughts on electoral reform

Thanks for writing this—I think electoral reform is an interesting and important cause area.

[Approval voting] fails the later-no-harm criterion

All voting systems violate intuitively desirable conditions, so noting that some system violates some condition is in itself no reason to favor other systems. One needs to look at the full picture, see what conditions are violated by what systems, and pick the system that minimizes weight-adjusted violations. (There is a clear parallel here between voting theory and population ethics: impossibility theorems have demonstrated in both fields that there exists no voting rule or population axiology that satisfies all intuitively plausible desiderata, so violation of a condition can't be adduced as a reason for rejecting the rule or axiology that violates it.)

But there is a much better approach, namely, to assess different systems by their "voter satisfaction efficiency" (VSE). Instead of relying on adequacy conditions, this approach considers the preferences that the electorate has for rival candidates and deals with them using the apparatus of expected utility theory. Each candidate is scored by the degree to which they satisfy the preferences of each voter, and then rival voting systems are scored by their probability of electing different candidates. Monte Carlo simulations independently performed by Warren Smith, Jameson Quinn and others generally find that approval voting has higher VSE than instant-runoff voting, and that both approval voting and instant-runoff voting have much higher VSE than plurality voting.

Given these results, I think the priority for EAs is to support whichever alternatives to plurality voting are most viable in a particular jurisdiction, rather than obsess over which of these alternatives to plurality is the absolute best. Of course, I also think it makes sense to continue to research the field, and especially refine the models used to compute VSE. What EAs definitely shouldn't do, in my opinion, is to spend considerable resources discrediting those alternatives to one's own preferred system, as FairVote has repeatedly done with respect to approval voting. Much more is gained by displacing plurality than is lost by replacing it with a suboptimal alternative (for all reasonable alternatives to plurality).

(In case it isn't obvious, I'm definitely not saying that you have done this in your essay; I'm rather highlighting a serious failure mode I see in the "voting reform" community that I believe we should strive to avoid.)

Empirical data on value drift
a quick look would suggest ~75% moved from 50% to 10%

So, to confirm, are you saying that maybe 5 out of the 7 people who moved out of the 50% category moved in the 10% category? I think it's important to get clarity on this, since until encountering this comment I was interpreting your post (perhaps unreasonably) as saying that those 7 people had left the EA community entirely. If in fact only a couple of people in that class left the community, out of a total of 16, that's a much lower rate of drift than I was assuming, and more in line with anonymous's analysis of value drift in the original CEA team.

Growth and the case against randomista development
Its interesting to note that I got downvoted for giving excellent sources. While you got upvoted for reading the articles and commenting. Basically I am outgroup/outcaste in EA.

I'm not sure I'm the right person to comment on this, given that I'm one of the parties involved, but I'll provide my perspective here anyway in case it is of any help or interest.

I don't think you are characterizing this exchange or the reasons behind the pattern of votes accurately. Bruno asked you to provide a source in support of the following claim, which you made four comments above:

One child policy had no effect on China's population size. It was their widespread education pre-1979 than reduced fertility.

In response to that request, you provided two sources. I looked at them and found that both failed to support the assertion that "It was [China's] widespread education pre-1979 than reduced fertility", and that one directly contradicted it.

I didn't downvote your comment, but I don't think it's unreasonable to expect some people to downvote it in light of this revelation. In fact, on reflection I'm inclined to favor a norm of downvoting comments that incorrectly claim that a scholarly source supports some proposition, since such a norm would incentivize epistemic hygiene and reduce the incidence of information cascades. I do agree with you that ingroup/outgroup dynamics sometimes explain observed behavior in the EA community, but I don't think this is one of those cases. As one datapoint confirming this, consider that a month or two ago, when I pointed out that someone had mischaracterized the main theses of a paper, that person's comment was heavily downvoted, despite this user being a regular commenter and not someone (I think) generally perceived to be an "outsider".

Moving to the object-level, in your recent comment you appear to have modified your original contention. Whereas before your stated that "widespread education" was the factor explaining China's reduced fertility, now you state that education was one factor among many. Although this difference may seem minor, in the present context it is crucial, because both in comments to this post and elsewhere in the Forum you have argued that EAs should prioritize education over growth. Yet if both of these factors account for the fertility reduction in China, your position cannot derive any support from this Chinese experience.

Load More