Srdjan Miletic

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Digital People Would Be An Even Bigger Deal

Thanks for the post.

One of my issues with arguments about digital people is that I think that at the point at which we have EM's, we've essentially hit the singularity and civilization will look so completely different to what it is now that it's hard to speculate or meaningfully impact what will happen. To coin a concept label, its beyond the technological event horizon.

A world with EM's is a world where a small sect with a sufficient desire for expansion could conceivably increase it's population a thousand fold every hour. It's a world where you can run ten thousand copies of the top weapons scientist at ten thousand times baseline speed. It's a world where you can backup a person, play their mind for a bit and then restore from the backup until you know exactly what you need to say/do to get them to act a certain way. 

I imagine that all of these possibilities and many more besides them are likely to so radically change political incentives and the relative strengths of various forms of social organization that that a world of EM's will be so different from modern nations states just as modern states are from chimps.

Still 100% worth thinking about and potentially thinking of ways to influence in a positive direction, but I'm highly sceptical that the world of EM's is something we have meaningful influence over other than delaying it a bit.

Part 2: The advantages of agencies

Thanks for the writeup! One comment is that there are a few downsides of agencies which are worth exploring. Some of those are:

  • Less embedded in the org = typically less likely to suggest projects/software solutions to business problems than an in-house dev would be
  • Slightly less reliable for situations where high priority work can come up. An in house dev is always available to jump on an issue. That may well not be the case with an agency. E.g: Your website crashes in the middle of a busy weekend. Your agency project finished months ago. You now need to get back in touch with the agency in order to source someone to fix your site. While it is true that you can get around this kind of issue with longer-term retainer type contracts, this is an added level of complexity to manage.
  • There's additional overhead in managing the relationship/demands of clients. This is true regardless of whether you go with an person hour or project deliverable billing model.

This is not to say that it's a bad idea or unlikely to be successful, just that it's worth considering the downsides and possible ways to mitigate them in an EA context.

Long-Term Influence and Movement Growth: Two Historical Case Studies

This is really interesting, both as a topic and as just general history geek stuff. Have you considered the intolerance hypothesis for the spread of christianity (and islam after it)? I vaguely remember reading about it while in undergrad and it essentially says that christianity managed to dominate because it was exclusive, meaning required you only believe in the christian god, unlike other roman pagan religions.

I vaguely remember the last pagan generation being a good source on early christendom as well: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Final-Generation-Transformation-Classical-Heritage/dp/0520283708

How Effective Altruists Can Be Welcoming To Conservatives

Most of your advice focuses on behaviours. This is resonable, but I worry that the problem with that approach is that it deals with the symptom of partisanship rather than the root cause. If you think conservatives and their beliefs are fundamentally immoral and alien, you are likely to behave in ways that make conservatives feel unwelcome. Conscious attempts to moderate these behaviours, while good, will always be imperfect. I think one thing people can do is to read higher quality conservative media sources just to see some of the argumentation on the other side. It's much harder to hate people when you realise they have reasons for their beliefs. Then again, maybe that would just have a radicalising effect.

An Exploration of Sexual Violence Reduction for Effective Altruism Potential

As I understand it, there are two arguments in this article:

  • Sexual violence is bad for individuals.
  • Reducing sexual violence substantially is unlikely to be too difficult/costly.
  • Conclusion: We should generally look to evaluating/fund/spend time on solutions to sexual violence.

and

  • Sexual violence reduces EA's impact
  • Preventing sexual violence in EA is unlikely to be too difficult/costly
  • Conclusion: We should spend more effort on reducing sexual violence in EA because it will increase our effectiveness.

###Sexual Violence in the world### On funding/spending time on sexual violence reduction programs generally. We all agree that sexual violence is bad. The question is whether there are cost-effective ways to tackle it. Your statistics indicate that rape has a 1 in 208 chance of leading to death. Let's adjust that figure for the suffering rape causes even when non-fatal and say that 100 rapes are as bad as 1 death. We can currently save a life or equivalent for $1700 deworming givewell analysis. Assuming you agree with my rape to death badness ratio, that would imply that a rape prevention program would have to prevent 100 rapes for $1700, or one rape per 17$, with a high degree of certainty to be competitive with our current best option. While I don't think that is impossible, I also don't think there's any strong evidence in the article that this is the case.

As for the more meta level claim that the EA community should devote more resources/time to research in the area. I agree that while there is a lot of attention given to the issue, very little evaluation of program effectiveness is currently being done. I agree that this means there is likely a great deal of low hanging fruit for EA in terms of redirecting funding to more effective interventions. I'm just not sure that sexual violence is a better investment of our time or attention than other problems such as ethnic violence/warfare, drugs, crime, environmental damage, mental health, AI etc..

###Sexual Violence within EA### On reducing sexual violence in the EA community. I think there are a few major issues with your analysis:

  • You assume that EA's are about as likely to experience sexual violence as the population norm. I'm not sure this is justified, but others have already commented on this so I won't repeat it here.
  • An extreme focus on sexual violence prevention within EA (sting operations, consent training, profiling etc..) may repel potential members if it creates a perception that sexual violence is a significant problem in the community or that EA is dominated by the far-left.
  • Your policy recommendations contain a number of suggestions that seem likely to be ineffective, legally dangerous and morally dubious.
    • 3: Sting operations. They expose anyone participating in them to massive liability. By running one, you are at the very least knowingly putting another person in a situation where you suspect sexually assaulted is likely. You are likely recording someone without their consent, a crime in some jurisdictions, or not doing so and hence having no evidence even if the sting is successful. You're also creating significant reputational damage for the employee/person in question at the point at which you have an operation involving a significant number of other employees and superiors conspire against them around the shared belief that they are a sex offender. At the very least this opens you up for civil liability for libel/defamation/harassment at work. It may well constitute criminal harassment depending on the jurisdiction. On top of the legal risks, these kind of operations in an NGO could have a severely negative reputational effect.
    • 5&7 : robust sex offender detection strategy\minimising bad attitudes. We can take into account behavioural risk factors such as whether the person believes rape myths. We can then tweak a probability further using personality research. Male patriarchal values [66] Men's acceptance of traditional sex roles This is profiling and, while possibly effective, is morally dubious. If being introverted increases risk of sexual assault, does that mean we should avoid hiring introverts or letting them into EA? What if devout Muslims/Christians/Xs have an increases rate of sexual assault? What about race? What about political opinions, gender, age, sex, IQ, nationality, etc.. A general moral principle I stand by is that we should treat people as individuals and judge them by their own actions rather than by those of others who share traits with them. Discrimination based on group level risks violates this principle and hence is morally unacceptable to me in all except the most extreme situations. Admittedly, whether you feel the same way depends on your moral intuitions, which may well differ from mine.