1609 karmaJoined Mar 2017


Was community director of EA Netherlands, had to quit due to long covid

I have a background in philosophy,risk analysis, and moral psychology. I also did some x-risk research.


I'm predicting a 10-25% probability that Russia will use a weapon of mass destruction (likely nuclear) before 2024. This is based on only a few hours of thinking about it with little background knowledge.

Russian pro-war propagandists are hinting at use of nuclear weapons, according to the latest BBC podcast Ukrainecast episode. [Ukrainecast] What will Putin do next? #ukrainecast https://podcastaddict.com/episode/145068892 via @PodcastAddict

There's a general sense that, in light of recent losses, something needs to change. My limited understanding sees 4 options:

  1. Continue on the current course despite mounting criticism. Try to make the Ukrainians lives difficult by targeting their infrastructure, limit losses until winter, and try to reorganize during winter. This seems a pretty good option for now, even though I doubt Russia can really shore up its deeply set weaknesses. They can probably prepare to dig in, threaten and punish soldiers for fleeing. This wouldn't go well for either party long-term, but Russia might bet on outlasting/undermining Western support. Probability: 40%?

  2. Negotiation: I don't think Putin wants this seriously, as even the status quo could be construed as a loss. Ukraine will have a strong bargaining position and demand a lot. Undesirable option. Maybe 10%? 20%? (Metaculus predicts 8% before 2023: https://www.metaculus.com/questions/10046/ukraine--russia-peace-talks-2022/)

  3. Full-scale mobilisation of the population and the economy. This is risky for Putin: there's supposedly a large anti-war sentiment in Russian culture, a legacy of the enormous losses during the 2nd World War. People don't like to join a poorly-equipped poorly managed and losing army, even if it were a good cause.. This may be chosen, Putin may be misinformed and badly reading the public's sentiment. I have no idea how this would develop internally. I doubt it will make a big difference in the course of the war, except by prolonging the war a bit. Maybe 25%? Maybe 50% if Putin underestimates public resistance.

  4. Escalation by other means: I don't know how many options Russia has. Chemical weapons, electro magnetic pulse, a single tactical nuclear strike on the battlefield for deterrence, multiple nuclear strikes for strategic reasons, population strike for deterrence. In the mind of Putin, I can see this as preferable: it leads to a potential military advantage, has limited risk for destabilising his internal power base. I don't know how the international community would respond to this, nor how Putin thinks the international community would respond. In my (uninformed) view, only China can make a real difference here as the West already has stringent sanctions. I don't know how China would respond to this. They wouldn't like it, but I think the West won't really punish China for its support in the short term. I'd say on this inside view, 10-25% seems reasonable. I'm setting the point estimate at 15%.

"Yet they carry on doing what they're doing, despite knowing the risks. Perhaps they're motivated by curiosity, hubris, wealth, fame, status, or prestige. (Aren't we all?) Perhaps these motives overwhelm their moral qualms about what they're doing."

I'd like to add inertia/comfort to this list: people don't like to change jobs, and changing fields is much harder.

Intervention idea: offer capabilities researchers support to transition out of the field

Something I'm confused about is why Microsoft hasn't retracted Bing Chat by this point

It's also highlighted for me the failure mode of "secondary releases": even if a first release is done safely and responsibly, other actors may release their highly imperfect model "just to have a chance". This in turn could force the first model to take more aggressive steps

I liked this and felt all points were reasonable, except for this one:

"I think even the best possible version of the EA community is not far from what we have now."

I strongly disagree if this is meant literally, ie. including possible future versions. I imagine if EA's development continues for multiple decades, which I believe it can, then that future EA would look far more impressive than current EA.

Alternatively, if it only means "given when and where it started, we're in one of the best timeline with respect to the EA community so far", that might be up for debate.

But given the context, it seems only the first makes sense? Actually on re-reading the passage, I'm not sure how this statement connects to the rest of the paragraph.

What do we know about his views regarding effective altruism?

"How do you keep the lights on in a city like Seoul when your population is decreasing that fast (4.3 great grandkids for every 100 Koreans)? How, at a basic level, do you keep infrastructure functional? Take immigrants? From where? I suppose developed countries could start to mass import people from Sub Saharan Africa (until they, too, fall below replacement rate) to support their mostly white and Asian, non-working, geriatric populations. That said, I feel like we have learned that importing people from Africa with the explicit purpose of supporting non-working white people is unethical."

This is a terrible argument. It completely ignores voluntary immigration and makes a very weird jump to slavery?!

It's a great overview.

Some things I find missing/underemphasized in the Defense section:

  • Ventilation is mentioned briefly, mentioning that achieving aircraft-level ventilation (20 air changes/hour, ACH) is expensive and noisy. But substantial reduction already comes at 6ACH, and 12 ACH is really good (but would probably not stop Omicron BA1-level transmission in an immunologically naive population). Enforcing air quality standards in transport hubs seems a sensible and valuable policy to me.

  • Broad-spectrum antivirals aren't empathized because they would be circumventable and face distribution issues. The first seems not a strong reason: a number of antiviral medications together would very significantly constrain the option space. There are also plenty of immunosupportive therapeutics in development that would be hard to circumvent. I would think production would be a bigger issue than distribution? Stockpiling seems like the obvious solution.

  • There's decent evidence of certain nasal sprays (containing eg povidone iodine or carrageenan) being broadly effective against airborne pathogens. These could be stockpiled, freely distributed/cheaply promoted at travel hubs, or added to people's daily routines (e.g. like washing hands and brushing teeth)

Regarding Detection:

  • I'm not sure how long it will take to convince institutions to do air sampling. As an intermediate solution, air sampling could also be crowdsourced. There are people measuring CO2 levels everywhere they go. Let them take swabs from the outside of their respirators or portable air filters and send it to a lab?

Also note that their statement included "...that occurred at FTX". So not any potential fraud anywhere.

Ah I didn't mean to apply Habryka's comment to be faux pas. That's awkward phrasing of mine. I just meant to say that the points he raises feel irrelevant to this post and its context.

There's a time and place to discuss exceptions to ethics and when goals might justify the means, but this post clearly isn't it.

I agree that the more inquisitive posts are more interesting, but the goal of this post is clearly not meant to reflect deeply on what to learn from the situation. It's RP giving an update/statement that's legally robust and shares the most important details relevant to RP's functioning

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