RomeoStevens's Comments

How should longtermists think about eating meat?

> Costs of being vegan are in fact trivial, despite all the complaining that meat-eaters do about it. For almost everyone there is a net health benefit and the food is probably more enjoyable than the amount of enjoyment one would have derived from sticking with one's non-vegan diet, or at the very least certainly not less so. No expenditure of will-power is required once one is accustomed to the new diet. It is simply a matter of changing one's mind-set.

Appreciate some of the points, but this part seems totally disconnected from what people report along several dimensions.

What's the big deal about hypersonic missiles?

Potential EA career: go in to defense R&D specifically for 'stabilizing' weapons tech i.e. doing research on things that would favor defense over offense. In 3d space, this is very hard.

Comparisons of Capacity for Welfare and Moral Status Across Species

This is only half formed but I want to say something about a slightly different frame for evaluation, what might be termed 'reward architecture calibration.' I think that while a mapping from this frame to various preference and utility formulations is possible, I like it more than those frames because it suggests concrete areas to start looking. The basic idea is that in principle it seems likely that it will be possible to draw a clear distinction between reward architectures that are well suited to the actual sensory input they receive and reward architectures that aren't (by dint of being in an artificial environment). In a predictive coding sense, a reward architecture that is sending constant error signals that an organism can do nothing about is poorly calibrated, since it is directing the organism's attention to the wrong things. Similarly there may be other markers that could be spotted in how a nervous system is sending signals e.g. lots of error collisions vs few, in the sense of two competing error signals pulling behavior in different directions. I'd be excited about a medium depth dive into the existing literature on distress in rats and what sorts of experiments we'd ideally want done to resolve confusions.

Modelers and Indexers

Literally today I was idly speculating that it would be nice to see more things that were reminiscent of the longer letters academics in a particular field would write to each other in the days of such. More willingness to explore at length. Lo and behold this very post appears. Thanks!

WRT content, you mention it in passing, but yeah this seems related to tendency towards optimization of causal reality (inductive) or social reality (anti-inductive).

Physical theories of consciousness reduce to panpsychism

Panpsychism still seems like a flavor of eliminativism to me. What do we gain by saying an electron is conscious too? Novel predictions?

The Alienation Objection to Consequentialism

Seems like you're trying to get at what I've seen referred to as 'multifinal means' at one point. Keyword might help find related stuff.

This is sort of tangential, but related to the idea of making the distinction between inputs and outputs in running certain decision processes. I now view both consequentialism and deontological theories to be examples of what I've been calling perverse monisms. A perverse monism is when there is a strong desire to collapse all the complexity in a domain into a single term. This is usually achieved via aether variables, we rearrange the model until the complexity (or uncertainty) has been shoved into a corner either implicitly or explicitly, which makes the rest of the model look very tidy indeed.

With consequentialism we say that one should allow the inputs to vary freely while holding the outputs fixed (our idea of what the outcome should be, or heuristics that evaluate outcomes etc.). We backprop the appropriate inputs from the outputs. Deontology says we can't control outputs, but we can control inputs, so we should allow outputs to vary freely while holding the inputs to some fixed ideal.

Both of these are a hope that one can avoid the nebulosity of having a full blown confusion matrix about inputs and outputs, and that changing problem to problem. That is to say, I have some control over which outputs to optimize for, and some control over inputs, and false positives and false negatives in my beliefs about both of those. Actual problem solving of any complexity at all both forward chains from known info about inputs, and backchains from previous data about outputs then tries to find places where the two branching chains meet. In the process of investigating this, beliefs about the inputs or outputs may also update.

More generally, I've been getting a lot of mileage out of thinking of 'philosophical positions' as different sorts of error checks that we use on decision processes.

It's also fun to think about this in terms of the heuristic that How to Measure Anything recommends:

Define parameters explicitly (what outputs do we think we care about, what inputs do we think we control)

Establish value of information (how much will it cost to test various assumptions)

Uncertainty analysis (narrowing confidence bounds)

Sensitivity analysis (how much does final proxy vary as a function of changes in inputs)

it's a non linear heuristic, so the info gathered in any one step can cause you to go back and adjust one of the others, which involves that sort of bouncing back and forth between forward chaining and back chaining.

If it's true that Coronavirus is "close to pathologically misaligned with some of our information distribution and decisionmaking rituals", then what things would help the response?

So a conceptual slice might be that not only do generals fight the last war, but the ontology of your institutions reflect the necessities of the last war.

Measuring happiness increases happiness

It has been noted that when status hierarchies diversify, creating more niches, that people are happier than when status hierarchies collapse to a single or a small number of very legible dimensions. This suggests that it would be possible to increase net happiness by studying the conditions by which these situations arise and tilting the playing field. E.g. are social media sites only having a negative impact on mental health because they compress the metrics by which success is measured?

New Top EA Cause: Politics

Related: surely someone somewhere is doing critical path analysis of vaccine development. It certainly wouldn't be the case that in the middle of a crisis people just keep on doing what they've always done. Even if it isn't anyone's job to figure out what the actual non parallelizable causal steps are in producing a tested vaccine and trimming the fat, someone would still take it on right?


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