Richard Bruns

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Economist specializing in cost-benefit analysis of complex public health and biorisk policies. https://www.centerforhealthsecurity.org/our-people/bruns/ https://allegedwisdom.blogspot.com/


Welfare Estimation


There are standard approaches for valuing the loss of consumer surplus from price changes. Traditionally, moving money from one entity to another is just a transfer, not a cost, but there is a deadweight loss associated with price changes, and we measure that as a cost. But you have to have an estimate for how many trades will not happen as a result of the price change.

There are no existing metrics for valuing loss of freedom in DALY terms. You'd basically have to do a proper survey, using similar methodology to the one that generates the DALY losses of various health states.

Sadly no, although many EA-style shallow dives use a similar approach. The target audience for this is people like industrial hygienists or nurse managers who want to do an analysis of an operational change. I posted this because a couple people at a recent conference asked me for a guide like this and there was nothing like it available.

The official framing is that a DALY is valued at 2 to 4 times GDP per capita, so given uncertainty, it's probably good if you're buying a DALY for less than GDP per capita and probably bad if you're paying 5x.

My framing is that the disutility of working a job, holding income constant, is probably between 0.2 and 1 DALY.

Your interpretation of Standard 241 is not misguided. I was one of the people who developed the standard; we designed it to be technology-agnostic and with UV in mind. It will incentivize UV, once the standards have been developed to say how much equivalent clean air a UV fixture provides. I suspect that in a few years when the tech matures, it will be one of the most cost-effective ways of meeting 241's requirements.

This is not a dumb question; you have just described upper room uv, which is an established, successful, and worthwhile tech. But it requires skilled labor to install (to avoid accidentally getting the angle wrong and blasting people in the head) and it does not have as much potential upside as newer tech.

"Imagine a new technology that allowed subsystems to report their conscious states! But we don’t have that evidence and, unfortunately, may forever lack it. "

We already have this technology. It is called Internal Family Systems therapy. Mindfulness meditation also results in awareness of the brain processes that were formerly shielded from conscious awareness, and knowledge of the fact that they have valenced experiences of their own, separately and often in conflict with the valence that the conscious mind reports.

Denying the existence of conscious subsystems in the human brain is like denying the existence of jhana. The lived experience of thousands of people is that they exist. We have watched them, and talked to them, and watched them talk to each other. We have seen that the 'I' of our assumed personal identity is actually a process that results from 'passing a microphone' from one subsystem to another as they take turns reacting to various stimuli.

Humans are vast, we contain multitudes. If you hurt me, you are hurting a lot of things. Theories of a singular consciousness are based on a narrow and limited sense of identity that anyone with meditation attainment will tell you is a delusion.

I got on a different train long ago. I am not a utilitarian; I am a contractualist who wants 'maximize utility' to be a larger part of the social contract (but certainly not the only one).


I strongly agree with Derek's point about measuring the nonmonetary costs to the recipients and their families. If your benefits are driven mainly by the differences in costs, then omitting potentially relevant costs can invalidate the entire analysis. You absolutely must account for the time that recipients spent in the program, and traveling to and from the program, and any other money or time costs that they or their families incurred as a result of program participation. At minimum, this time should be valued at the local wage rate.  Until this is addressed, I will assume that your analysis is junk, and say so to anyone who asks me about it.

Given that technical AI alignment is impossible, we should focus on political solutions, even though they seem impractical. Running any sufficiently powerful computer system should be treated as launching a nuclear weapon. Major military powers can, and should, coordinate to not do this and destroy any private actor who attempts to do it.

This may seem like an unworkable fantasy now, but if takeoff is slow, there will be a 'Thalidomide moment' when an unaligned but not super-intelligent AI does something very bad and scary but is ultimately stopped. We should be ready to capitalize on that moment and ride the public wave of techno-phobia to put in sensible 'AI arms control' policies.

Also, in my preferred specification, I do not assume that average and marginal values are the same. An average value of $70 (relative to nonexistence) is perfectly compatible with the marginal value of the last hour of leisure (relative to working) to be equal to take-home pay.  Assuming equality was just an extreme estimate to set a lower bound on things.

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