Robi Rahman

Data Scientist @ Epoch
910 karmaJoined Aug 2021Working (6-15 years)New York, NY, USA



Data scientist working on AI forecasting through Epoch and the Stanford AI Index. GWWC pledge member since 2017. Formerly social chair at Harvard Effective Altruism, facilitator for Arete Fellowship, and founder of the DC Slate Star Codex meetup.


I had heard that the last EAG SF was gloom central, but this event felt much more cheery. I'm not entirely sure why

I assume any event in SF gets a higher proportion of AI doomers than one in London.

if everyone in the world did stop buying and consuming meat and other animal products, the factory farming industry would collapse in fairly short order. Many purchases of animal products are made by institutions, including governments, that might not be directly responsive to market forces, however. So it would probably take some significant political action and other forms of advocacy to eliminate meat purchases by non-individuals. If everyone in the world were personally on board with veganism, this advocacy would presumably be pretty easy, but it would still have to happen. Similarly, if people refused to consume any goods or services that were associated with net-positive greenhouse gas emissions, then those industries would rapidly decarbonize or go out of business.

Even total abstinence from net-GHG-producing goods wouldn't solve global warming. We've emitted 1 trillion tons of CO2 already, and warming will continue into the future. Hence, changes to personal consumption could solve factory farming if universalized, but changes to personal consumption could not solve global warming even if universalized.

How's the fellowship going?

I don't think there's a way to get anywhere near "delete yourself" as a goal under this paradigm, you'd have to reward it for deleting itself, but then it's gone. 

That's not true. Here's a very good explanation of why:

They curate and run a conference called EA Global, (including this forum)... Unless they cede control of these major parts of EA infrastructure... then they will continue to be the de facto leaders of the movement.

I don't think this is true, necessarily. They can run this infrastructure without leading the movement; for example, the website could be descriptive rather than prescriptive, and they could run the conferences just by renting event spaces and then inviting speakers from whichever orgs are the current thought leaders.

I realize this may sound ridiculous, but, serious question: Is it good or bad for a marginal person to take the GWWC pledge, if you take into account the effects on the human population, wild animal welfare, and x-risk? I'm interested in your conclusions on this since you've mentioned it in several other posts.

They say in the post that exponentially declining population will eventually outweigh any linear productivity increases and then the economy will start to shrink. Is this empirically correct? How fast does productivity per person grow? Anyway, this is irrelevant in my opinion when we are <20 years away from transformative AI, which might automate many jobs and allow more leisure/retirement (among other possibilities).

Why does almost every successful (large and long-lived) traditional culture in the world have homophobic undertones? Cultures can be thought of as evolutionary units. Cultures that accept gay people on average have lower birth rates and are ultimately outnumbered by neighboring homophobic cultures. We nevertheless stand at a unique point in history at which gay acceptance has risen. Why? Because the internet, widespread education, easy travel, and television empowered memes that compete on the basis of logic, philosophy, prosociality, and human decency. The culture produced by effective altruism is one of those memes. However, this unique moment in history has introduced never-before-seen selective pressures on our species that could push us back to being a less inclusive society.

I'm skeptical of the putative direction of causality implied by this paragraph. I do not think acceptance of homosexuality has such a big effect on fertility rates. Rather, it seems to me that declining fertility and acceptance of homosexuality are both downstream of technological and cultural progress, which raise living standards, spread universal and cosmopolitan culture, and reduce birth rates for the reasons you mention in your section "Why is this Happening?". I doubt that homophobia is a significant cultural "advantage" in modern times, even if there were some sort of adversarial competition between progressive and old-fashioned societies, because adoption and technologies like IVF are enabling many same-sex couples to have children just like heterosexual couples can.

Why is there so much uncertainty in how much Open Philanthropy will contribute in the remainder of 2023? Can you just ask them? Do they know yet how much it'll be? I'm surprised that so much of the uncertainty in your 2023 fundraising is due to the OP contribution; I'd have expected the opposite.

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