stefan.torges's Comments

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community

I agree with all of what you say here. Building things for others can often go badly wrong. Thanks for sharing this perspective!

The case for building more and better epistemic institutions in the effective altruism community

I was referring to the option "Building the EA and related communities." If building such institutions is a form of community-building, then this gives some indication of its importance compared to other areas. Now, it might be the case that respondents didn't have this in mind when answering and if they did, they would give it a much lower score.

How Europe might matter for AI governance

Do you think these points make Europe/the EU more important than the US or China? Otherwise, they don't give a reason for focusing on the Europe/the EU over these countries to the extent that this focus is mutually exclusive, which it is to some extent (e.g., you either set up your think tank in Washington DC or Brussels, you either analyze the EU policy-making process or the US one).

Reasons to focus on the EU/Europe over these countries are in my opinion:

  • personal fit/comparative advantage
  • diminishing returns for additional people to focus on the US/China (should have noted this in the OP)
  • threshold effects
How Europe might matter for AI governance

Maybe I misunderstood. What's the point of highlighting only this statistic? It does not seem very representative of the report you're linking to or the overall claim this statistic might support if looked at in isolation.

EDIT: I didn't mean to imply intent on your part. Apologies for the unclear language. Edited original comment as well.

How Europe might matter for AI governance

This strikes me as an isolated example of Europe leading on one metric. I plan to write something more comprehensive, but I think just seeing this statistic could create a wrong impression for some people.

(edited to remove accusatory tone)

Review of Fundraising Activities of EAF in 2018

Edited. (Initial draft was made in April and I didn't update afterwards.)

Ingredients for creating disruptive research teams

This issue is something I am still somewhat confused about. Feynman makes a similar point about the IAS. I also know about a few more anecdotes in line with the "constraints breed creativity" point.

I think the 'constraints breed creativity' applies more to the tools people work with, and other constraints like teaching, administrative tasks, and grant applications mostly waste time.

There might be something to this, but I distinctly recall reading somewhere that having state of the art tools is also crucial for being able to work at the frontier. Without an electron microscope, some research is simply unavailable. (It might also create an incentive to develop an alternative and this is the kind of disruption we're actually looking for.) More powerful computers also seem like a good thing in general. So I'm not sure how to resolve this.

Edit: Also consider the anecdote mentioned by John Maxwell about PARC of course.

Another thing I remember him once mentioning to me is that PARC bought its researchers very expensive, cutting-edge equipment to do research with, on the assumption that Moore's Law would eventually drive down the price of such equipment to the point where it was affordable to the mainstream.

Ingredients for creating disruptive research teams

How long do you estimate that you spent looking at each of the case studies?

Good question. I'd say on average about 10 hours; some more, some less.

It seems that most are based on a small number of sources. Did you find that reading additional sources changed your views about a particular research team compared to the first source or two that you read? Do you expect steeply diminishing returns from investing more time into digging further into particular case studies?

In my experience, most of the material went back to one or two authoritative accounts of these teams. So there appeared to be little value beyond finding and reading these. I'm not sure how well this generalizes to other case studies though.

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