rodeo_flagellum

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rodeo_flagellum's Shortform

As of September 30th, 2021, 80000 Hours lists ageing under Other longtermist issues, which means that, at the moment, it is not one of their Highest priority areas. 

Despite this, I am interested in learning more about research on longevity and ageing. The sequence Gears of Ageing, Laura Deming's Longevity FAQ, and the paper Hallmarks of Aging, are all on my reading list. 

Relatedly, my friends have sometimes inquired how long I would like to live, if I could hypothetically live invincibly for however long I wanted, and I have routinely defaulted to the answer: "10,000 years". I have not expended much thought as to why this number comes to mind, but it may have to do with the fact that the first known permanent settlements occurred roughly 10,000 years ago (assuming I recall this accurately), and that I thought it'd be interesting to see where human civilization is in this amount of time (starting from when I was born). 

Several of Aubrey de Grey's talks on Gerontology and ageing have also resonated with me. From Wikipedia:

In 2008 Aubrey de Grey said that in case of suitable funding and involvement of specialists there is a 50% chance, that in 25-30 years humans will have technology saving people from dying of old age, regardless of the age at which they will be at that time.[26] His idea is to repair inside cells and between them all that can be repaired using modern technology, allowing people to live until time when technology progress will allow to cure deeper damage. This concept got the name "longevity escape velocity".

In one TED talk, he made the case that ageing research was highly neglected, but I can't recall just how neglected. Given that I do not want to die, I really would like to see a cultural shift towards prioritizing anti-ageing research. 

There may be a strong negative impact on humanity's long-term and/or short-term potential as a result of extending people's lifespans, but I think that whether the magnitude of positive impact (reduction of existential risk, improvements to collective well-being) of this intervention/technology/research outweighs the negative impact is still highly uncertain in my mind. 

Maybe writing a future-history (a story that traces the societal changes engendered by hypothetical sequences of scientific/cultural advancements) on different scenarios for anti-ageing research breakthroughs and implementations could stir the community into thinking more about its potential (for existential risk increase or reduction, among other things). 

What's something that every EA community builder should have thought about?

I think that the poor outcomes you listed - causing reputational damage, spreading a wrong version of EA, over-focusing or under-focusing on certain cause areas, giving bad career advice, etc... - are on the mark, but might not entirely stem from EA community builders not taking the time to understand EA principles. 

For example, I can imagine a scenario where an EA community builder is not apt at presenting cause-areas, but understands the cause-area landscape very well. Perhaps as a result of their poor communication skills (and maybe also from a lack of being self-assured), some individuals on the edge of adopting EA in this particular org. begin to doubt the EA community builder and eventually leave. 

Back to the question. I think that group leaders, including EA community builders, don't often take the time to empathize or comprehend what the topic of the group means to each of the members in the group. 

The question of how this organization, movement, cause, etc... (in this case EA, and EA cause-areas) fits into group member X's life is useful in that it can be predictive of how committed they are, or of how long they'll stick around. 

In my personal experience coming to understand EA, and in my experience helping others at my undergraduate institution understand EA principles, I have noticed that there are a few close (highly involved) individuals, and many other, less involved individuals in the periphery. 

Many times, a lot of work that was expended by the highly involved individuals in trying to get the less involved individuals more involved could have been prevented by communicating the content of the group's activities more clearly. Regularly making sure that everyone is on the same page (literally just bring it up in conversation) can help to reduce the damage caused by the EA community builder. 

Practically speaking, exercises that would likely achieve this outcome of better communication could be: asking each member of the group what EA means to them, having each member present their case or analysis for why their cause-area is more pressing than other cause-areas, and having anonymous surveys to make sure there is a consensus among the group on their understanding of EA principles and making an impact.

Open Thread: August 2021

I posted this on LW as well, but I have being reading content from EA forum + LW sporadically for the last several years; only recently, though, did I find myself visiting here several times per day, and have made an account given my heightened presence. 

I am graduating with a B.A. in Neuroscience and Mathematics this January. My current desire is to find remote work (this is important to me) that involves one or more of: [machine learning, mathematics, statistics, global priorities research]. 

In spirit of the post The topic is not the content, I would like to spend my time (the order is arbitrary) doing at least some of the following: discussing research with highly motivated individuals, conducting research on machine learning theory, specifically relating to NN efficiency and learnability, writing literature reviews on cause areas, developing computational models and creating web-scraped datasets to measure the extent of a problem or the efficacy of potential solution, and recommending courses-of-action (based on my assessments generated from the previous listed entity). 

Generally, my skill set and current desires lead me to believe that I will find advancing the capabilities of machine learning systems, quantifying and defining problem afflicting humans, and synthesizing research literature to inform action, all fulfilling, and that I will be effective in working on these things done as well. 

It is my plan to attend graduate school for one of [machine learning, optimization, computer science] at some point in life (my estimate is around the age of 27-30), but I would first like to experiment with working at an EA affiliated organization (global priorities research) or in industry doing machine learning research. I am aware that it is difficult to get a decent research position without a Master's or PhD, but I believe it is still worth trying for. I have worked on research projects in computational neuroscience/chemistry for one company and three different professors at my school, but none of these projects turned into publications. This summer, I am at a research internship and am about to submit my research on ensemble learning for splice site prediction for review in the journal Bioinformatics - I am 70% confident that this work will get published, with me as the first author. Additionally, my advisor said he'd be willing to work with me to publish a dataset of 5000 fossil images I've taken of various fossils from my collection. While this work is not in machine learning theory, it increases my capacity for being hired and is helping me refine my competence as a researcher / scientist.  

I am planning on attending EA Global in October, but this is dependent upon how significant an issue COVID is at that point.

Research into people's willingness to change cause *areas*?

Thank you for your kind words. I will ping you midday-evening Eastern time on Friday if I see no reply. I am going to make a full post (probably by this evening), so please reply to that instead of in this comment thread, if possible. Hope you have a nice day.

Research into people's willingness to change cause *areas*?

After some more thought, I've decided that I am going to create a separate post for this. 

I was hesitant because (1) I wasn't sure whether something of this nature already existed, and I just hadn't seen it (there doesn't seem to be any work on the particular question of cause-switching) and (2) I wasn't sure how related the Rethink Priorities 2019 Cause-prioritization survey was to this idea, but it seems to me now that this line of work could be distinct enough to continue pursuing.

Given that the forum's reasoning and creative abilities can more easily be accessed by making a full post, I will go ahead and do so. The post will consist of a considerably expanded version of my previous comment. 

edit: I added Aaron Gertler / Davis_Kingsley to a draft; I am looking to publish the post by tomorrow morning.

Open Thread: July 2021

Thank you for writing this: I'm interested by how design and marketing can influence people into thinking something has authority, weight, believability. 

I am also interested in this, but it was not quite that clear in my mind until I read your phrasing of it. 

Beyond this, I think the mapping between the (structure & content of a question) and (the answers to the question that people give) is very interesting. Studying this idea could be useful if one wants to know how survey questions can be optimized to reduce the disparity between subjective evaluations of a behavior or action and the answerer's actual behavior. Or it could be useful if one wants to know which question phrasings or sequence of questions can most accurately evaluate how depressed or fulfilled a person is, across their mood distribution and across general human mood distributions.  

Research into people's willingness to change cause *areas*?

Thank you for posting this question. It has spurred me to consider taking some action; I am now interested in creating a survey on this topic, and then submitting it to my college.  

I am interested in advice on this idea in general (once each section has been read) and on each of the individual sections listed below (execution details, hanging variables, proposals for survey questions, narrowing / expanding the scope, redefining the objectives, etc...) .

Should you find that this has the potential to be effective or informative, I am interested in receiving help and discussing the content/execution of the survey. Should you think this is a waste of effort, or should you have any criticisms, please notify me, I would greatly appreciate the feedback. 

Objective and Measurements

The objectives  (in order) of this survey are to evaluate (1) which issues people believe are worth donating to, coming into the survey, (2) what people believe it would take for them to change what they believe is worth donating to, (3) how people evaluate EA affiliated organizations' cause-area selections, and (4) how people change their evaluations of which issues are worth donating to once they are exposed to EA affiliated organizations' measurements / reasoning of the importance of the cause-areas (e.g. scale, neglectedness, solvability ratings for a cause or metrics attached to a problem area) .

Questions by Objective

These are initial conceptualizations of questions  for each of the objectives listed above. Some questions depend on previously asked questions, so there are multiple sequences of questions that can be used. There are many other ways this survey can be created, so please do not think that I am set on these questions, or even on this particular ordering or set of objectives. 

(1) which issues people believe are worth donating to, coming into the survey

  • What issues are worth donating money to?
  • Please list the top five issues you think are worth donating money to.
  • If you had money to donate, which issues would you donate to?
  • Please list the top five issues you think are worth donating money to. Specify why each is important to you personally and to humanity as a whole.
  • Please list the top five issues you think are worth donating money to. Specify why these are the top five issues humanity should focus on solving.
  • (follow up): Please list some other issues that are maybe slightly less pressing, but are still important.
  • You have $[quantity of funds] you must donate to some issue/s:  What causes would you donate the money to? How much would you donate to each cause?

(2) what people believe it would take for them to change what they believe is worth donating to

  • What would it take for you to consider [iterate through EA affiliated organizations' cause-areas or a subset of causes areas, where the subset could differ between surveys] to be in your (top five) or (selection) of causes worth donating to?
  • Why isn't [iterate through EA affiliated organizations' cause-areas or a subset of causes areas, where the subset could differ between surveys] in your list of causes worth donating to?

(3) how people evaluate EA affiliated organizations' cause-area selections

[iterate through EA affiliated organizations' cause-areas or a subset of causes areas, where the subset could differ between surveys] 

  •  Which of these causes shouldn't be considered causes? Why? 
  •  What would you change about this list? Why?
  • Please select the elements of this list that should be removed, and add the ones that you think are missing. Please provide some reasoning behind your decisions.

(4) how people change their evaluations of which issues are worth donating to once they are exposed to EA affiliated organizations' measurements / reasoning of the importance of the cause-areas

x = [iterate through EA affiliated organizations' cause-areas or a subset of causes areas, where the subset could differ between surveys] 

y = [a quantitative negative or positive outcome]

  • What if you knew working on [x] would/might result in [y]; does this change your cause-area selection?
  • Quantitative statement about the pressingness of [x]; would you now consider donating to this? 
  • Quantitative statement about the pressingness of [x];  do you think this is pressing enough to replace one of your original cause-areas to donate to?

Implementation

Given my circumstances, I am 75% confident that I will be able to submit a survey on this topic to at least two of the following departments [Economics, Neuroscience, Computer Science, Mathematics, Sociology, Anthropology, Philosophy] in my college. Additionally, I am somewhat confident that I will be able to convince EA groups at two other colleges in the area to host this survey in at least one department. Finally, there is a small chance that my non-EA affiliated friends will be able to host this survey and, should the survey be formulated well, a small chance that some members of this forum will take the survey or consider spreading it. 

Across all of these, I estimate that I can get at least 50 survey responses. 

Some Final Remarks

I can envision this survey beginning with a scenario where people divide 1,000,000 hypothetical dollars between cause-areas they personally find important. Then they'd choose how to reallocate funds in subsequent questions that pertain to different objectives (e.g. after reading about the reasoning EA affiliated organization use to select cause-areas, they'd have the option to reallocate money to another cause). A situation where the participant reallocates hypothetical money  to donate upon learning new information could be a short survey-game, similar to Explorable Explanations , but perhaps of a slightly shorter duration. 

Thank you for taking a look at this; I will wait for some feedback before taking more serious steps to conduct this survey (I will still be thinking about question phrasing, objectives, and implementation details).