PeterMcCluskey

I'm a stock market speculator who has been involved in transhumanist and related communities for a long time. See my website at http://bayesianinvestor.com.

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Issues with Futarchy

Hanson reports estimates that under our current system, elites have about 16 times as much influence as the median person.

My guess is that under futarchy, the wealthy would have somewhere between 2 and 10 times as much influence on outcomes that are determined via trading.

You seem to disagree with at least one of those estimates. Can you clarify where you disagree?

The motivated reasoning critique of effective altruism

The original approach was rather erratic about finding high value choices, and was weak at identifying the root causes of the biggest mistakes.

So participants would become more rational about flossing regularly, but rarely noticed that they weren't accomplishing much when they argued at length with people who were wrong on the internet. The latter often required asking embarrassing questions their motives, and sometimes realizing that they were less virtuous than assumed. People will, by default, tend to keep their attention away from questions like that.

The original approach reflected trends in academia to prioritize attention on behaviors that were most provably irrational, rather than on what caused the most harm. Part of the reason that CFAR hasn't documented their successes well is they've prioritized hard-to-measure changes.

The motivated reasoning critique of effective altruism

To the best of my knowledge, internal CEAs rarely if ever turn up negative.

Here's one example of an EA org analyzing the effectiveness of their work, and concluding the impact sucked:

CFAR in 2012 focused on teaching EAs to be fluent in Bayesian reasoning, and more generally to follow the advice from the Sequences. CFAR observed that this had little impact, and after much trial and error abandoned large parts of that curriculum.

This wasn't a quantitative cost-effectiveness analysis. It was more a subjective impression of "we're not getting good enough results to save the world, we can do better". CFAR did do an RCT which showed disappointing results, but I doubt this was CFAR's main reason for change.

These lessons percolated out to LessWrong blogging, which now focuses less on Bayes theorem and the Sequences, but without calling a lot of attention to the less.

I expect that most EAs who learned about CFAR after about 2014 underestimate the extent to which CFAR's initial strategies were wrong, and therefore underestimate the evidence that initial approaches to EA work are mistaken.

Decreasing populism and improving democracy, evidence-based policy, and rationality

It seems strange to call populism anti-democratic.

My understanding is that populists usually want more direct voter control over policy. The populist positions on immigration and international trade seem like stereotypical examples of conflicts where populists side with the average voter more than do the technocrats who they oppose.

Please don't equate anti-democratic with bad. It seems mostly good to have democratic control over the goals of public policy, but let's aim for less democratic control over factual claims.

What would a cheap, nutritious and enjoyable diet for the world's extreme poor people like?

I doubt that that study was able to tell whether the dietary changes improved nutrition. They don't appear to have looked at many nutrients, or figured out which nutrients the subjects were most deficient in. Even if they had quantified all important nutrients in the diet, nutrients in seeds are less bioavailable than nutrients in animal products (and that varies depending on how the seeds are prepared).

There's lots of somewhat relevant research, but it's hard to tell which of it is important, and maybe hard for the poor to figure out whether they ought to trust the information that comes from foreigners who claim to be trying to help.

I'll guess that that more sweet potatoes ought to be high on any list of cheap improvements, and also suggest that small increases in fruit and seafood are usually valuable. But there will be lots of local variation in what's best.

Maybe Antivirals aren’t a Useful Priority for Pandemics?

Could much of the problem be due to the difficulty of starting treatment soon enough after infection?

A Viral License for AI Safety

I see some important promise in this idea, but it looks really hard to convert the broad principles into something that's both useful, and clear enough that a lawyer could decide whether his employer was obeying it.

Keynesian Altruism

10 years worth of cash sounds pretty unusual, at least for an EA charity.

But part of my point is that when stocks are low, the charity won't have enough of a cushion to do any investing, so it won't achieve the kind of returns that you'd expect from buying stocks at a no-worse-than-random time. E.g. I'd expect that a charity that tries to buy stocks would have bought around 2000 when the S&P was around 1400, sold some of that in 2003 when the S&P was around 1100 to make up for a shortfall in donations, bought again in 2007 at 1450, then sold again in 2009 at 1100. With patterns like that, it's easy to get negative returns.

Individual investors often underperform markets for the same reason. They can avoid that by investing only what they're saving for retirement. However, charities generally shouldn't have anything equivalent to saving for retirement.

Keynesian Altruism
  1. Cash sitting in a charity bank account costs money, so if you have lots of it, invest some;

But the obvious ways to invest (i.e. stocks) work poorly when combined with countercyclical spending. Charities are normally risk-averse about investments because they have plenty of money to invest when stocks are high, but need to draw down reserves when stocks are low.

How to Fix Private Prisons and Immigration

When I tell people that prisons and immigration should use a similar mechanism, they sometimes give me a look of concern. This concern is based on a misconception

I'll suggest that some people's concerns are due to an accurate intuition that your proposal will make it harder to hide the resemblance between prisons and immigration restrictions. Preventing immigration looks to me to be fairly similar to imprisoning them in their current country.

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