All of smithee's Comments + Replies

The Global Priorities of the Copenhagen Consensus

Thanks! My understanding of CC being controversial: Lomborg once was a member of Greenpeace, then became disillusioned with popular environmentalism and wrote the extremely controversial The Skeptical Environmentalist arguing against most popular environmental causes. The Economist and Wall Street Journal celebrated it as a fresh new look, while the Scientific American lambasted Lomborg as wrong and even scientifically dishonest. One Danish government commission accused Lomborg of fabricating data and plagiarism, while another criticized the previous commi... (read more)

The Global Priorities of the Copenhagen Consensus

More generally, it seems really strange that EA and the Copenhagen Consensus haven't been in closer contact. Their mission is very EA: "to address a fundamental, but overlooked topic in international development: In a world with limited budgets and attention spans, we need to find effective ways to do the most good for the most people." And importantly, they're very legitimate, established, and influential.

Bjorn Lomborg, head of Copenhagen, has a relatively high public profile and has been named in several rankings of top public intelle... (read more)

4Aaron Gertler3y
I don't hold an especially high opinion of Lomborg's epistemics, since I've seen some pretty sharp critiques of The Skeptical Environmentalist (not sure about his newer work). But since the CC reports were mostly produced by non-Lomborg people, that doesn't influence my view of them very much. However, I agree with other responses that collaborating with CC comes with a degree of risk given Lomborg's status as a controversial figure. I think it's worth trying to learn from their work, but I don't have any particular view on working with them directly.
3John G. Halstead3y
One downside of extensive engagement is that Lomborg and CC are highly controversial due to their stance on climate change. So, there are dangers of EA being tainted by association

Sure. Czech EAs were in contact with Bjorn, and the former chairman of the Czech EA Association is now managing a CC project to try prioritization in a developed country with ~$2M budget.

That said I don't think it is actually useful to include CC directly under the EA umbrella/brand. There are important disagreements - CC discounts future heavily and will typically not include interventions with small probabilities and high payoffs, hence their prioritization is much more short-term. Also, due to the nature of what they are trying, CC is much more po... (read more)

4Ben Pace3y
+1 on being confused, I've heard good things about CC. Just now checking the wikipedia page, their actual priorities list [https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Copenhagen_Consensus#/Outcome] is surprisingly close to GiveWell priorities lists (macronutrients, malaria, deworming, and then further down cash transfers) - and I see Thomas Schelling was on the panel! In particular he seems to have criticised the use of discount rates [https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Copenhagen_Consensus#/Criticism] on evaluating the impact of climate change (which sounds close to an x-risk perspective). I would be interested in a write-up from anyone who looked into it and made a conscious choice to not associate with / to not try to coordinate with them, about why they made that choice.
Long-Term Future Fund AMA

Hi! Do you happen to know about the current AI Impacts hiring process?

1AlexZhu3y
I don’t think any of us have any particular expertise on this question. You could try sending an application on their jobs page [https://aiimpacts.org/jobs/].

Is EA Forum getting spam bots?

I've defended MacAskill extensively here, but why are people downvoting to hide this legitimate criticism? MacAskill acknowledged that he did this and apologized.

If there's a reason please say so, I might be missing something. But downvoting a comment until it disappears without explaining why seems harsh. Thanks!

5Michelle_Hutchinson4y
I didn't downvote the comment, but it did seem a little harsh to me. I can easily imagine being forwarded a draft article, and reading the text the person forwarding wrote, then looking at the draft, without reading the text in the email they were originally sent. (Hence missing text saying the draft was supposed to be confidential.) Assuming that Will read the part saying it was confidential seemed uncharitable to me (though it turns out to be correct). That seemed in surprising contrast to the understanding attitude taken to Julia's mistake.
Towards Better EA Career Advice

1) I think it's important to try to specify exactly what 80k can improve. They're an extremely busy organization that doesn't have time for everything they'd like to do, so they can only improve if we can identify specific high-leverage uses of their time. General hopes for higher accuracy or helpfulness are likely not actionable.

2) I definitely agree with the worries about competition. I've been quite surprised to see how difficult it is to get hired at many EA orgs, often with <5% of applicants getting offers. Because people a... (read more)

2Benjamin_Todd4y
On 2), note there’s discussion about this here [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/hBxp5xQtFGisTaKaH/cross-post-think-twice-before-talking-about-talent-gaps] .

I'm not sure how EA Forum displays drafts. It seems very plausible that, on this sometimes confusing platform, you're mistaken as to which draft was available where and when. If you're implying that the CEA employee sent MacAskill the draft, then yes, they should not have done that, but MacAskill played no part in that. Further, it seems basic courtesy to let someone respond to your arguments before you publicly call them a liar - you should've allowed MacAskill a chance to respond without immediate time pressure.

3guzey4y
Just wanted to note that now we know that MacAskill knew that the draft was confidential.
8guzey4y
I never posted the draft that had this quote on EA Forum. Further, I clearly asked everyone I sent the drafts not to share them with anybody.

First, on honesty. As I said above, I completely agree with you on honesty: "bad arguments for a good conclusion are not justified." This is one of my (and I'd say the EA community as a whole) strongest values. Arguments are not soldiers, their only value is in their own truth. SSC's In Favor of Niceness, Community, and Civilization sums up my views very well. I'm glad we're after the same goal.

That said, in popular writing, it's impossible to reflect the true complexity of what's being described. So the goal is to ... (read more)

-1guzey4y
CN: I don't agree with you PlayPumps: I don't agree with your assessment of points 1, 2, 4. I have already apologized to MacAskill for the first, even harsher, version of the post. I will certainly apologize to him, if I conclude that the arguments he made were not made in bad faith, but at this point I find that my central point stands. As I wrote in another comment, thank you for your time and I will let you know later about my conclusions. I will likely rewrite the post after this.
3guzey4y
Thank you a ton for the time and effort you put into this. I find myself disagreeing with you, but this may reflect my investment in my arguments. I will write to you later, once I reflect on this further.

I'll headline this by saying that I completely believe you're doing this in good faith, I agree with several of your criticisms, and I think this deserves to be openly discussed. But I also strongly disagree with your conclusion about MacAskill's honesty, and, even if I thought it was plausible, it still would be an unnecessary breach of etiquette that makes open conversation near impossible. I really think you should stop making this an argument about MacAskill's personal honesty. Have the facts debate, leave ad hominem aside so everyo... (read more)

4guzey4y
Also, I wonder what you think about the second half of this comment [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/7aqGFHirEvHTMD5w5/william-macaskill-misrepresents-much-of-the-evidence#SyB29tDr2xjgeHPw2] of mine in this thread. There, I point out that MacAskill responds not to any of the published versions of the essay but to a confidential draft (since he says that I'm quoting him on something that I only quoted him about in a draft). What do you think about it? Is my interpretation here plausible? What are the other plausible explanations for this? Maybe I fail to see charitable interpretations of how that happened.
8guzey4y
Thank you for a thoughtful response. 1. Deworming. Seems fair. 2. GiveWell. This seems like a good argument. I will think about it. 3. CN. If you read my post and not William's response to it, I never accuse him of conflating CEO pay and overhead. He deflects my argument by writing about this. This is indeed a minor point. I specifically accuse him of misquoting CN. As I wrote in other comments here, yes this might indeed be CN's position and in the end, they would judge the doughnuts charity highly. I do not contend this point and never did. I only wrote that MacAskill (1) quotes CN, (2) makes conclusions based on this quote about CN, (3) the very page that MacAskill takes the quote from says that their position does not lead to these conclusions. And maybe CN is being completely hypocritical! This is not a point. It is still dishonest to misquote them. 4. PlayPumps: I feel like you're kind of missing the point and I'm wondering if it might be some sort of a fundamental disagreement about unstated assumptions? I think that making dishonest argument that lead to the right conclusions is still dishonest. It seems that you (and many other EAs) feel that if the conclusion is correct, then the fact that the argument was dishonest is not so important (same as with CN). Here's what you say: And here's what I wrote in that comment specifically about this argument: And in your conclusion you write: Yes! I mostly agree with this! But (1) these are not just inaccuracies. I point out misrepresentations. (2) I believe that making dishonest arguments that advance the right conclusions is dishonest. Do I understand you correctly that you disagree with me on point (2)?

Guzey, would you consider rewriting this post, framing it not as questioning MacAskill's honesty but rather just pointing out some flaws in the representation of research? I fully buy some of your criticisms (it was an epistemic failure to not report that deworming has no effect on test scores, misrepresent Charity Navigator's views, and misrepresent the "ethical employer" poll). And I think Jan's views accurately reflect the community's views: we want to be able to have open discussion and criticism, even of the EA "cano... (read more)

4guzey4y
Hi smithee, I do wonder if I should've written this post in a less personal tone. I will consider writing a follow up to it. About me deciding that MacAskill is deliberately misleading, please see my comment [https://www.reddit.com/r/slatestarcodex/comments/9xluu2/william_macaskill_misrepresents_much_of_the/ea0ua2t/?st=joo3qz0k&sh=7eccc850] in /r/slatestarcodex in response to /u/scottalexander about it. Would love to know what you think.
Debate and Effective Altruism: Friends or Foes?

Personal experience note on formal debate (high school, college): It can really be great. I doubt I'd be an EA if not for it, it's been probably the single most educational thing I've done. If you're reading this post and wondering whether you should participate in your high school or college debate team, I'd give it a pretty strong recommendation.

It's certainly not ideal, it pits you in zero sum competitions where finding truth is always less valuable than winning by any means necessary. And culture-wise, the people who enjoy... (read more)