Radical Empath Ismam

305 karmaJoined Jun 2022


I'm surprised you didn't bring up the most commonly cited defintions of capitalism and socialism.

Capitalism is the private ownership of the means of production.

Socialism is the public ownership of the means of production.

Whilst there's a great deal of variation in how people envision their form of captialism/ socialism, the above are the generally agreed upon dictionary definitions of the two economic systems.

A utility between 0 and 1 effectively plays the same role as "negative utilities" do under regular arithmetic expected value. So a geometric perspective can work if you map what you would ordinarily consider to be negative utilities to the interval 0 to 1, and restrict utility to .

But why would you? It doesn't offer any benefit over regular artihmetic expected value calculations.

A natural use case for geometric expected value is in situations where "compounding" occurs. In finance we deal phenomenon like comound interest. Hence the average rate of return is calculated using the geometric mean.

I think compunding occurs in lots of phenomon (population, economy). It may even applicable for modelling utility in some circumstances - perhaps the happiness of a community is boosted by the happiness of all the individuals.  

Whether geometric expected utility itself should be maximised is subjective/ philosophical in my opinion. In our culture our concept of "total" is the addition. The total cost of a shopping list is the sum of the prices of all it's individual items. And hence our concept of "total utility" is similarly the addition of the utility of each actor. However, I wonder if on an alien planet, their concept of "total" is multiplicative. As far as I can reason, there is no reason to think one concept of "total" is more natural than the other.

Aside from arithmetic (addditive) and geometric mean, there are other means like the harmonic mean. Maybe we can also ask if we should maximise harmonic expected value too? Or even more exotic kinds of "means":

I can't see a good reason why any one of them is a more natural choice over any other. I genuinely think that our usage of the ordinary arithmetic expected value is purely cultural. And this forms part of my critique of leaning so heavily on expected value in the first place.

In terms of money: a geometric expectation maximizer will never accept the tiniest risk of absolute bankruptcy, even if it comes with an arbitrarily large probability of an arbitrarily large payoff.

Gee this sure would have been handy in a certain recent scandal involving cryptocurrency.

Matt Levine at Bloomberg pointed out that SBF should have been using Kelly criterion:

If this is the case that MacAskill cannot be forthcoming for valid reasons (opening himself up to legal vulnerability), as a community it would still make sense for us to err on the side of caution and have other leaders for this community as Chris argues for.

There used to be discord group with a lot of left wing EAs but it has since fizzled.

Let me know if you get a new group up and running.

I don't fully agree with DeBoer but am much more sympathetic to his views than yourself. Some respectful pushpack on some of your points:


But if you look at what EAs actually recommend, they very much do not recommend defrauding lots of people

It's true EA does not reccommend fraud but I think we underappreciate EAs role in having encouraged SBF (and the other EAs assosciated with him) to walk down that path. By all accounts, SBF was a very moral person who cared strongly about animals and was set on a career in animal welfare before he was persuaded by William MacAskill to work in crypto on EA grounds. MacAskill made that encouragement and stuck by him even though

  • Many cryptocurrencies have high carbon emissions
  • cryptocurrency having questionable utility to society
  • FTX advertising complex financial products to unsophisticated retail investors in an unethical way (super bowl ads with celebrities)


If everyone supports effective charities, why does the Against Malaria Foundation get such a small percentage of charitable funding?

I don't disagree with the gist of your point about people being ineffective, but I think this specific example doesn't work because by definition the most effective charities have to be receiving a small percentage of funding, otherwise they would no longer be neglected.


Is it really plausible that huge numbers of people have looked into it and concluded that the GiveWell top charities are ineffective?

Many people just don't know GiveWell exists. Or in fact, they think they are using something as good as GiveWell (e.g. Charity Navigator).


DeBoer’s final point involves questioning why one should align oneself with the movement. Why not just like do charitable things effectively? This is, I think, less important than most of his critique. If you don’t call yourself an effective altruist but give 10% of your income to effective charities, take a high-impact career, are vegan, and give away your kidney, I don’t think you’re doing anything wrong. In fact, I’d consider you to be basically an EA in spirit, even if not in name.

I disagree that this is not an important part of DeBoer's critique. DeBoer is stressing that by disassosciating yourself from "Effective Altruism", you can continue doing the good parts of effective altruism, without the baggage of the bad parts. The bad parts DeBoer describes as things like longtermism, hypotheticals, book promotions, the castle. If you are someone like DeBoer who sees those things as the bad parts of EA, then there probably is value in distancing yourself from EA, as it lets you continue your good deeds without inadvertently supporting the parts of EA you think are misguided.

There is no justification for it. EA was intended to be a more mass movement at the onset, and that is the way for it to reach it's true potential.

The harsh crticism of EA has only been a good thing, forcing us to have higher standards and rigour. We don't want an echochamber.

I would see it as a thoroughly good thing if Open Philanthropy were to combat the protrayal of itself as a shadowy cabal (like in the recent politico piece) for example by:

  • Having more democratic buy-in with the public
    • e.g. Having a bigger public presence in media, relying on a more diverse pool of funding than (i.e. less billionarie funding)
  • Engaged in less political lobbying
  • More transparent about the network of organisations around them
    • e.g. from the Politico article: "... said Open Philanthropy’s use of Horizon ... suggests an attempt to mask the program’s ties to Open Philanthropy, the effective altruism movement or leading AI firms"

If anyone is after a good example of EA criticism, I cannot strongly reccommend enough the Doing EA Better post by the ConcernedEAs group.

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