Radical Empath Ismam

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You should absolutely do it, and I would agree that you probably would not receive material backlash.

But I would be careful to assume that your success means that any plain old person can critique EA and receive a warm reception.

You've spent a long time building amicable relationships with EAs (I suspect by walking on eggshells, self-censoring - hope I am not being presumptuous here David).

It is confusing I agree, but the confusion isn't helped by coming up with further conflicting definitions.

I've studied & work in finance, and as I understand things, the term capital markets really just refers to the market of longer-term debt/equity instruments (e.g. bonds, shares etc). That term sits in contrast to money markets which refers to short-term instruments (e.g. repos, bills which are just bonds that mature <= 90 days).

There's nothing particular about capital markets that are particularly more objectionable to socialists than say the money market, so your emphasis on capital markets is misplaced in my opinion.

RE participatory socialism, I was not familiar with this idea, but from a quick read it does seem to advocate for the majority of the economy to operate under public or worker ownership of the means of production. So I think this would generally be considered socialism under the official definition of socialism. Happy to be corrected if I've misunderstood Piketty's system.

Social democracy, whilst it may involve some elements of socialism (welfare state, unions, large public sector, state ownership of some companies), and may be embraced by socialists as a transitory economic system towards socialism, is generally considered a form of capitalism. Historically it gets more complicated, where the terms social democracy and democratic socialism were interchangeable (e.g. the precursor to the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, was the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party). But with history, they've come to mean different things.

So in summary, I think you are wrong to point to Participatory socialism and social democracy as not involving public ownership of the means of production, or being socialism respectivel. And I think you are furthering the confusion of these ideas by emphasizing the importance of capital markets in this discussion.

I do applaud you looking into this and the ideas of Piketty & the nordic model. But be careful about theorising too much on your own when there is a wealth of existing work produced by more informed/ dedicated people (including academics, commentators) you could leverage. For example, jacobin, the socialist magazine, has a few articles on what AI means for socialists: An article like that could have been a good starting point for you to support/ critique in the forum post.

Keep looking into this stuff - glad to see it being posted on the progress forum also. These discussions are needed more for sure.

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.

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