All of ryancbriggs's Comments + Replies

Results of a survey of international development professors on EA

I think that's fair (see also, footnote 2). Fwiw this was the actual question: "Consider a charity whose programs are among the most cost-effective ways of saving the lives of children. In other words, thinking across all charities that currently exist, this one can save a child’s life for the smallest amount of money.

Roughly what do you think is the minimum amount of money that you would have to donate to this charity in order to expect that your money has saved the life of one child?”

Results of a survey of international development professors on EA

I did not ask for impressions about CGD, JPAL, etc. I did ask an EA "feeling thermometer" question about EA in general (of the subset of people who said they knew enough about EA to discuss with a friend), and I got this (0 is as negative as possible and 100 is as positive as possible):

That spike at 50 is an answer of total indifference, which again affirms that many of the people who said they knew about EA probably didn't know very much about it.

The question about "which subsets of the profession might be more or less interested in EA" is a very good one... (read more)

Results of a survey of international development professors on EA

This is the breakdown of "discipline of PhD" in my sample.

Academic disciplineCanadaUnited StatesUnited Kingdom
Linguistics and languages010
Political science245917
Public Policy or Public Administration030
International Development Studies10423
Nothing selected001

 Development economics is a subfield of economics, international development is an interdisciplinary research area. The two are related but not the same. I think most international development p... (read more)

Results of a survey of international development professors on EA

Thanks. I basically agree with what you say, I'd just note that lots of IDEV profs aren't economists.  I'm writing something I'll aim at World Development (then JDS, then JID, etc) based on the survey data, for exactly the reasons you describe.

4Vaidehi Agarwalla8d
What is the background of most IDEV professors? I'd also be curious more generally on an overview of the field and how it compares to e.g. developmental economics (I know very little about it!)
Don’t Be Comforted by Failed Apocalypses

I'll re-word my comment to clarify the part re:  "the dangers of anthropic reasoning". I always forget if "anthropic" gets applied to not conditioning on existence and making claims, or the claim that we need to condition on existence when making claims.

Don’t Be Comforted by Failed Apocalypses

This is a good thing to flag. I actually agree re: anthropic reasoning (though frankly I always feel a bit unsettled by its fundamentally unscientific nature). 

My main claim re: AI—as I saw it—was that the contours of the AI risk claim matched quite closely to messianic prophesies, just in modern secular clothing (I'll note that people both agreed and disagreed with me on this point and interested people should read my short post and the comments).  I still stand by that fwiw—I think it's at minimum an exceptional coincidence.

One underrated respo... (read more)

Hey Ryan, I think I agree with the religious comparison- they do seem similar to me and I liked that part of your post. I just think failed apocalyptic predictions don't give that much evidence that we can discount future apocalyptic predictions. Religious apocalypses are maybe a little different because I think (but don't know) that most people who predict the end of the world via God are claiming that all possible worlds end, not just predicting an event that will normally occur. I mostly think anthropic reasoning is good (but there is a voice in my head telling me I'm crazy whenever I try to apply it).
How to apply for a PhD

This was a good post overall, I just have one modification.

  1. Your advisor is the most important choice you can make. Talk to as many people as possible in the lab before you join it. If you and your advisor do not get along, your experience will be terrible.

I received this advice, and things worked out for me, but it's dangerously incomplete. It is true that you need a good relationship with an advisor, and their recommendation letter matters when you're on the job market. But for many areas the prestige of the department and university is more important. Pu... (read more)

2Abby Hoskin2mo
That's a good point, prestige is very important. I would argue having a good relationship with your advisor is the most important, since its a bad idea to be in an abusive relationship for multiple years, but I will edit the main post to take this perspective into account!
Could economic growth substantially slow down in the next decade?

Personally, I'm more worried about this paper. Here is a vox writeup. I don't know that I think the linear growth story is true, and even if it was we could easily hit another break point (AI anyone?), but I'm more worried about this kind of decline than a blowup like LTG suggests.

I'm not an expert in this area, but think the paper you're pointing to is leaning way too hard on a complicated model with a bad track record, and I'm weirded out by how little they compare model predictions and real data (eg using graphs). If I wanted to show off how awesome som... (read more)

2Arjun Yadav2mo
This LessWrong post [] about Thomas' paper is also interesting.
Thanks for the answer and also the link to the paper, very interesting! I did find it strange that they didn't include a graph but I haven't read enough economic papers to be confident.
The AI Messiah

I'm not sure that it's purely "how much to trust inside vs outside view," but I think that is at least a very large share of it. I also think the point on what I would call humility ("epistemic learned helplessness") is basically correct. All of this is by degrees, but I think I fall more to the epistemically humble end of the spectrum when compared to Thomas (judging by his reasoning). I also appreciate any time that someone brings up the train to crazy town, which I think is an excellent turn of phrase that captures an important idea.

The AI Messiah

I really appreciate this response, which I think understands me well. I also think it expresses some of my ideas better than I did. Kudos Thomas. I have a better appreciation of where we differ after reading it.

I’m curious on what exactly you see your opinions as differing here. Is it just how much to trust inside vs outside view, or something else?
The AI Messiah

I appreciate the pushback. I'm thinking of all claims that go roughly like this: "a god-like creature is coming, possibly quite soon. If we do the right things before it arrives, we will experience heaven on earth. If we do not, we will perish." This is narrower than "all transformative change" but broader than something that conditions on a specific kind of technology. To me personally, this feels like the natural opening position when considering concerns about AGI.

I think we probably agree that claims of this type are rarely correct, and I understand th... (read more)

I am commenting here and upvoting this specifically because you wrote "I appreciate the pushback." I really like seeing people disagree while being friendly/civil, and I want to encourage us to do even more of that. I like how you are exploring and elaborating ideas while being polite and respectful.

6Jackson Wagner2mo
Here are a couple thoughts on messianic-ness specifically: * With the classic messiah story, the whole point is that you know the god's intentions and values. Versus of course the whole point of the AI worry is that we ourselves might create a godlike being (rather than a preexisting being arriving), and its values might be unknown or bizarre/incomprehensible. This is an important narrative difference (it makes the AI worry more like stories of sorcerers summoning demons or explorers awakening mad Lovecraftian forces), even though the EA community still thinks it can predict some things about the AI and suggest some actions we can take now to prepare. * How many independent messianic claims are there, really? Christianity is the big, obvious example. Judaism (but not Islam?) is another. Most religions (especially when you count all the little tribal/animistic ones) are not actually super-messianic -- they might have Hero's Journey figures (like Rama from the Ramayana) but that's different from the epic Christian story about a hidden god about to return and transform the world. I am interpreting you as saying: "Messianic stories are a human cultural universal, humans just always fall for this messianic crap, so we should be on guard against suspiciously persuasive neo-messianic stories, like that radio astronomy might be on the verge of contacting an advanced alien race, or that we might be on the verge of discovering that we live in a simulation." (Why are we worried about AI and not about those other equally messianic possibilities? Presumably AI is the most plausible messianic story around? Or maybe it's just more tractable since we're designing the AI vs there's nothing we can do about aliens or simulation overlords.) But per my second bullet point, I don't think that Messianic stories are a huge human universal. I would prefer a story where we recognize that Christianity is by far the biggest messianic story out there, an

I appreciate the pushback. I'm thinking of all claims that go roughly like this: "a god-like creature is coming, possibly quite soon. If we do the right things before it arrives, we will experience heaven on earth. If we do not, we will perish."

I do think Jackson's example of what it might feel to non-European cultures with lower military tech to have white conquerers arrive with overwhelming force feels like a surprisingly fitting case study of this paragraph.

The AI Messiah

Thanks for the kind words Richard.

Re: your first point: I agree people have inside view reasons for believing in risk from AGI. My point was just that it's quite remarkable to believe that, sure, all those other times the god-like figure didn't show up, but that this time we're right. I realize this argument will probably sound unsatisfactory to many people. My main goal was not to try to persuade people away from focusing on AI risks, it was to point out that the claims being made are very messianic and that that is kind of interesting sociologically.

Re: ... (read more)

3Mahdi Complex2mo
I have come to see the term 'religion' (as well as 'ideology [] ') as unhelpful in these discussions. It might be helpful to taboo [] these words and start talking in terms of 'motivating world-views' instead.
EA is more than longtermism

I expected you to be right, but when I looked on the 80k job board right now of the 962 roles: 161 were in AI, 105 were in pandemics, and 308 were in global health and development. Hard to say exactly how that relates to funding, but regardless I think it shows development is also a major area of focus when measured by jobs instead of dollars.

1Arthur Li2mo
Late reply here but I think a potential difference is that the global health and development jobs attract significantly more non-EA applicants than the AI and pandemics jobs. So if we are talking about EA shifting away from global health, maybe it is more about the number of EA-aligned individuals applying to global health and development jobs vs longtermist jobs.
Thanks for sharing the job counts, that's interesting data. But I also think it's important to note how those jobs are framed on the job board. The AI and pandemic jobs are listed as “top recommended problems”, while the global health jobs are listed as “other pressing problems” (along with jobs related to factory farming).
EA is more than longtermism

I think that longtermism has grown very dramatically, but that it is wrong to equate it with EA (both as a matter of accurate description and for strategic reasons, as are nicely laid out in the above post).

I think the confusion here exists in part because the "EA vanguard" has been quite taken up with longtermism and this has led to people seeing it as more prominent in EA than it actually is. If you look to organizations like The Life You Can Save or Giving What We Can, they either lead with "global health and wellbeing"-type cause areas or focus on that... (read more)

EA is less focused on longtermism than people might think based on elite messaging. IIRC this is affirmed by past community surveys


This is somewhat less true when one looks at the results across engagement levels. Among the less engaged ~50% of EAs (levels 1-3), neartermist causes are much more popular than longtermism. For level 4/5 engagement EAs, the average ratings of neartermist, longtermist and meta causes are roughly similar, though with neartermism a bit lower. And among the most highly engaged EAs, longtermist and meta causes are dramaticall... (read more)

Do we have any *lists* of 'academics/research groups relevant/adjacent to EA' ... and open science?

One additional useful starting point might be to look through EA funds grants to see find researchers that won. For example, in this batch I won one (and would be interested in chatting about your journal ideas whenever), as did Theron Pummer and it looks like a few other academics. These aren't nicely formatted lists, but they shouldn't be too hard to skim through. Someone over there might also be willing and able to make a list for you, as they presumably track all this in some database software.

2So-Low Growth3mo
Nice suggestion - and good to see you here on the EAF Ryan!
Good idea. It's not all academics/researchers, but that's a good chunk of it.