timunderwood

325Joined Aug 2014

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52

First quick note: Spans much of the Mediterranean region is still local.

Second, while I of course wasn't the author, I wouldn't have talked about it much if we were, because we simply don't know enough about it for it to make sense to draw any weight bearing conclusions from the details of the Bronze Age collapse. 

So what concretely and scaleably can people who don't need help because they have lots of resources (and thus they are actually capable of helping) do to figure out what the people who need help actually need, that the EA community is not doing?

Shrug, and Hitler was a vegetarian.

That an attitude is similar to Putin's attitude is not an argument for it being wrong - I suppose it is an sort of decent argument for it being dangerous.

I mean Putin is obviously right (to any consistent consequentialist) that there are things worth killing, destroying, wrecking, and even torturing to protect. My disagreement with him is about either what those things are, and whether this violence actually achieves them.

I find the criticism of long-termism that it can potentially motivate horrifying behavior very compelling. I just don't think the critics are offering an alternative way to act in cases where the stakes are really that high. Though I agree with the epistemic criticism that, a) when you think the stakes are that high, you are particularly likely to be wrong about something, and b) you are also particularly likely to be focusing on a bad set of methods for achieving your goals.

Ummmm, so we say we want to do good, but we actually want to make friends and get laid, so we figure out ways to 'do good' that leads to lots of hanging out with interesting people,and chances to demonstrate how cool we are to them. Often these ways of 'doing good' don't actually benefit anyone who isn't part of the community.

This is at least the worry, which I think is a separate problem from Goodharting, ie when the cea provides money to fly someone from the US to go to an eagx conference in Europe, I don't think there is any metric that is trying to be maximized, but rather just a vague sense that this might something something person becomes effective and then lots of impact.

Now it could interact with Goodharting in a case where, for example, community organizers get funds and status primarily based on numbers of people attending events, when what actually matters is finding the right people, and having the right sorts of events.

It's all good -- what matters is whether we make a (the biggest possible) positive difference in the world, not how the motivational system decided to pick this as a goal.

I do think that it is important for the EA community/system/whatever it is to successfully point the stuff that is done for making friends and feeling high status towards stuff that actually makes that biggest possible difference.

Lol, it's consistently readable. If you expect more, you need to widen your reading horizons.

Sure, I agree with you that the prose is passable, readable and fairly solid, but definitely not flashy, literary, or anything special (though I think it reaches a somewhat higher level by the middle, but it never is what is important or fun about the HPMOR).

I personally never had the delusion that pretty prose was particularly important (if anything I go too far in the other direction), but yeah, it is a mistake that people make. 

You definitely do not need to write a poem in prose to have a great deal of impact with your writing. 

About sapioseparatism: 
 

I suppose this is naturally what I'll want to push back hardest on, since it is the part that is telling me that there is something wrong with my core identity, assumptions about the world, and way I think. Of course that implies it is likely to be tied up with your core emotions, ways of thinking about the world, identity and assumptions -- and hence it is much more difficult for any productive conversation to happen (and less likely for conversation, if it becomes productive) to change anyone's mind.


So a core utilitarian (which is not identical to EA) idea is that if something is bad, it has to be bad 'for' someone -- and that except in exceptional cases, that badness for that someone will show up in their stream of subjective experiences. 

Now certainly mosquitoes, fish, elephants, and small rodents living in Malawi are all someone's whose subjective wellbeing should have some weight in our moral calculations. But I suspect that I'm wired in a particular way such that I could never care very much about anything that happens to 'nature' without affecting anybody's subjective experiences. This probably goes back to intuitions that cannot be argued with, though possibly they can be modified through prompting examples, social pressure, or by shifting the salience of other considerations and feelings.

At the very least, to the extent that biodiversity (as opposed to individual animals), and nature (as opposed, again, to individual animals) is viewed as important, I'd like to see a greater amount of argument for why this is important for me or for the EA community generally to care about. 

Now, I personally would prefer a green earth full of trees, but nothing with brains to a completely dead planet, and I'd prefer more weird species of animals, to every ecological niche being filled with the same type of animal. But this isn't a very strong preference compared to my preference for a long happy human future -- and it is a presence which is not at all prompted by my core utilitarian value system.

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A comment on insecticide treated insect nets:

It seems like impregnating bed nets with insecticide is the exact opposite of indiscriminate use of insecticide (ie spraying just about everywhere with it), and as a result I would be very surprised if the quantity is enough to cause substantial ecosystem effects.

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On environmental impact assessment:

Obviously the numbers should be run -- at least to the extent that it is not prohibitively expensive to do the study. Research, calculations, checking additional fringe possibilities, etc is not free, and should only be done if it seems like there is a reasonable chance they will tell us that we were making a mistake. However trying to figure out the size of environmental damages from using nets for fishing, burning, from the insecticide messing with children's hormones etc seems like it would be fairly easy to get a decent guess on how big the effect is at a cost that is reasonable in the context of a program that has so far distributed 400 million dollars worth of nets.

However, based on my priors, I would be fairly surprised if any of these numbers changes the basic conclusion that this is a cheap way to improve the well being of currently living human beings, and that it has a vanishingly small chance of contributing to a plastics driven extinction event caused by fertility collapse. 

I suppose my question here is, to what extent are you actually thinking about these issues as something where that whole set of concerns might in actual fact be irrelevant, and to what extent would you resist having your view on the importance of environmental concerns be changed by mechanics level explanations for why a particular bad outcome is unlikely, or by numerical assessments of costs and benefits? 

You seem to be saying that environmental concerns have a high chance of convincing us to stop giving out bednets, which will lead to some children dying --  this is the alternative. While changing house designs to discourage mosquitoes sounds like a very good additional idea, I would be shocked if it can be done at the cost of 1 dollar per year per room, like bed nets can be.

Resources are always limited.

So in that context, it is really important that the good thing that we win by stopping giving out bednets to be just a big and awesome of a win as stopping children from dying miserably from malaria. Perhaps that bar can be met -- some of your concerns (extinction risks, widespread neurological damage, etc), if they are real, might be worth letting children die to avoid.  But those are the stakes that we need to pay attention to.

It is a common misconception that because a piece of fiction was bad for the particular individual writing, or is low status, or is missing some desired marker of 'goodness', that it therefore is not 'good'. 

There doesn't seem to be any commonly agreed upon definition of what 'good' means in the context of fiction -- so I think it is better to focus on whether it is good for particular individuals, where you can just ask the people if they find the text good.

So while HPMOR is not good for Arjun, it is extremely good for a lot of other text-individual pairings. 

Also, if by 'not that good' you mean 'easy to duplicate', as someone who would very much like to write something that is as powerful, compelling, interesting, emotionally satisfying, multilayered and inspiring as HPMOR, it is not in the slightest easy to write something like it. 

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