6872Joined Aug 2014


Researcher of causal models and human-aligned AI at FHI | https://twitter.com/ryancareyai


Topic Contributions

I think it's right to think outside econ, but this name doesn't quite sound right to me - things that call themselves "X science" often aren't, e.g. Christian science. And there already is an emerging field around "global priorities research", which seems to me to get closer to the pivotal questions in EA than a narrow focus on econ/bio/psych would.

I also noticed unorthodox voting patterns on this post - my first comment was downvoted the minute I posted it. But it doesn't seem like many people would look at that criticism (polite, constructive, sent to the authors in advance) and think it should have negative karma. So basically, I wouldn't worry too much about it.

I agree that (4) could be modulated by the character of the community. The same is true for (3,5), except that, the direction is wrong. Old-timers are more likely to be professional EAs, and know more about the community, so their decreased prevalence should reduce problems from (3,5). And (7) seems more like an effect of the changing nature of the forum, rather than a cause of it.

FWIW, my guess would be that it is, or can be, legal, but that if they confronted you, you would want to change the name anyway.

Medium. It's what the ACM says, what the Simon Institute and (IIRC) the Parfit  Scholarships did, I heard previously from a person like me at Oxford that doing this without authorisation seemed weird to them, and ~half of the time that unauthorized eponymous naming is tried, I've heard of it causing problems.

Edit: if you named a thing after someone from many centuries ago - Socrates, Bentham, etc that would seem better, because a request from relatives to stop using the name would be less credible, and it doesn't give an impression that the prize was actually associated with that person.

But there are surely people who have a better sense.

On unauthorized eponymous-naming. I'm excited to see rewards going to under-recognised altruists, and appreciate a bunch of the stuff you guys have been doing.

That said, I don't quite understand the strategy of naming the prize after Harry Truman without approval from his estate, after all, many of his grandchildren seem to still be alive today (and I've confirmed some weeks ago that you've not done this). I've not carefully researched the question, but I get the impression this is a somewhat shifty practice. Firstly, the usual recommended practice is to gain consent [1]. Secondly, as a consequence of that, naming a prize after someone gives an impression that the prize is approved by someone connected to the named person, otherwise it is a bit misleading. Thirdly, it could actually undermine the prize's prestige. Both because of any perception of the aforementioned shiftiness, and because it doesn't seem fancy to tout receipt of a prize whose name has changed, or is changing, due to the organisers having been confronted by an unhappy family.

There are also some concrete reasons: I know of an org having to change its (unauthorised eponymous) name in the past, and I know of another project that had to change its name for this and other related reasons. 

That said, I would be happy to hear counterarguments!

NB. I did sent a draft of essentially this comment to Nonlinear a couple of weeks ago, to give an opportunity to respond.


[1]. e.g. the ACM, which requires, before instantiating a prize, that "A statement of permission for the use of the name from the person named (if living) or the person's estate"

I think it's fairly clear which of these are the main factors, and which are not. Explanations (3-5) and (7) do not account for the recent decline, because they have always been true. Also,  (6) is a weak explanation, because the quality wasn't substantially worse than an average post. 

On the other hand, (1-2) +/- (8) fit perfectly with the fact that volume has increased over the last 18 months, over the same period as community-building has happened on a large scale. And I can't think of any major contributors outside of (1-8), so I think the main causes are simply community dilution + a flood of newbies.

I think big outside contributions to hiring decisions are often viewed as violating academic good practice. See, for instance, controversies surrounding Koch Foundation-driven hiring to various schools. Such schemes are also liable to getting co-opted by the research interests of the school. So alternatives, like having impact-focused professors leading hiring from the inside, or spinning up brand new schools may be more promising.

Whether simulation shutdown is a good reason not to say such things would seem to depend on how you model the possibility of simulation shutdown.

One naive model would say that there is a 1/n chance that the argument that such a risk exists is correct, and if so, there is 1/m annual risk, otherwise, there is 0 annual risk from simulation shutdown. In such a model, the value of the future endowment would only be decreased n-fold. Whereas if you thought that there was definitely a 1/(mn) annual risk (i.e. the annual risk is IID) then that risk would diminish the value of the cosmic endowment by many OoM.

I actually agree that it would be good to try running an EAG:Open that is >3x bigger, with marketing, big-name speakers and an open invite list. But organising it would probably be >3x as much work, and <3x as valuable, so I don't think it's right to nag CEA into running it, nor should it replace current EAGs.

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