All of timunderwood's Comments + Replies

What are the bad EA memes? How could we reframe them?

Avoid catostrophic industrial/research accidents?

Samuel Shadrach's Shortform

Assuming that some people respond to these memetic tools by reducing the amount of children they have more than other people do, the next generation of the population will have an increased proportion of people who ignore these memetic tools. And then amongst that group, those who are most inclined to have larger numbers of children will be the biggest part of the following generation, and so on.

The current pattern of low fertility due to cultural reasons seems to me to be very unlikely to be a stable pattern. Note: There are people who think it can be sta... (read more)

1Samuel Shadrach1moMakes sense that groups who want to grow more children will grow bigger. I'm not sure what stable means here. Even if some groups choose to have less children, it's net less children compared to a world where no group chooses this. Consider India (1.4B population, 2.2 births per woman) and US (300M population, 1.7 births per woman). US population could reduce over generations, India to increase. Doesn't mean Americans will become more susceptible to being convinced by Indians to have more children than vice versa. Doesn't mean India will have more increase in gross wealth or per capita than US either. Eventually countries may hit economic limits where people will have less children simply because they cannot sustain economically. Wealth is not being freely distributed to them from richer countries - aid is tiny. Idk how soon these limits are hit though. Maybe once these limits are hit, once people are forced to change their behaviour, they might be more amenable to retaining their behaviour even when later it becomes cheaper to have more children. Also, economic incentives can be controlled by states themselves, as has been shown in China. China deliberately incentivised less children because they figured that's what makes them more wealth and more prosperity for each person. Pro / Anti natalism guess let's skip that, whole topic by itself.
Samuel Shadrach's Shortform

The really big con which is that people are awesome, and 1/70th of the people is way, way less awesome than the current number of people. Far, far fewer people reading fan fiction, falling in love, watching sports, creating weird contests, arguing with each other, etc is a really, really big loss.

Assuming that if it could be done, that it would be an efficient in utility loss/gain terms way to improve coordination, I think it probably goes way too slow to be relevant to the current risks from rapid technological change. It seems semi-tractable, but in the long run I think you'd end up with the population evolving resistance to any memetic tools used to encourage population decline.

1Samuel Shadrach1moI don't actually share the intuition on more people being better. But I can totally see there are people who do. But yes as you say it can be efficient over long-term even for people who really want larger populations. You're right it'll take atleast 3-4 generations to properly happen assuming we don't kill people. So some existential risk is not avoided, but we will avoid those risks which are created say 2 generations in the future. > I think you'd end up with the population evolving resistance to any memetic tools used to encourage population decline. Why do you feel this?
What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I feel like trying to be charitable here is missing the point.

It mostly is Moloch operating inside of the brains of people who are unaware that Moloch is a thing, so in a Hansonian sense they end up adopting lots of positions that pretend to be about helping the world, but are actually about jockeying for status position in their peer groups.

EA people also obviously are doing this, but the community is somewhat consciously trying to create an incentive dynamic where we get good status and belonging feelings from conspicuously burning resources in ways that are designed to do the most good for people distant in either time or space.

I don't think xuan's main point was about being charitable, although they had a few thoughts in that direction. More generally, trying to be charitable is usually good. Of course it's going to miss a point (what finite comment isn't), but maybe it's making another?

I appreciate you trying to bring the discussion towards what you see as the real reason for lefty positions being held by privileged students (subconscious social status jockeying), but I wonder if there's a more constructive way to speculate about this?

Maybe one prompt is: how would you approach... (read more)

What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

Possibly the solution should be to not try to integrate everything you are interested in.

By analogy, both sex and cheese cake are god, but it is not troubling that for most people there isn't much overlap between sex and cheese cake. EA isn't trying to be a political movement, it is trying to be something else, and I don't think this is a problem.

7Meadowlark8moI think this is more or less correct. EA is not destined to be compatible with everything that we care about, and I think we should be thinking hard about what EA is capable of being and that the project of bringing in leftists is way more difficult than a few messaging tweaks. Those tweaks might bring in a few left-liberals, but once many leftists really see EA—i.e. as more than just a "you should donate more effectively" project—they will not be super interested, I think.
What Makes Outreach to Progressives Hard

I think the survey is fairly strong evidence that EA has a comparative advantage in terms of recruiting left and center left people, and should lean into that.

The other side though is that the numbers show that there are a lot of libertarians (around 8 percent) and more 'center left' people who responded to the survey than there are 'left' people. There are substantial parts of SJ politics that are extremely disliked amongst most libertarians, and lots of 'center left' people. So while it might be okay from a recruiting and community stability pov to not r... (read more)

Want to alleviate developing world poverty? Alleviate price risk.​ (2018)

I feel like this would end up like microloans: Interesting, inspiring, and useful for some people, but from the pov of solving the systemic issue a dead end. The obvious question being: Why doesn't this already exist? And the answer presumably being that it cannot be done profitably.

Still, it is the sort of thing that if someone who has the skills and resources to do so is directly trying to set up specific systems like this, their efforts likely have a very high probability of being way more useful than anything else they could do.

3RomeoStevens8moLots of markets fail to clear for a long time until coordination problems are solved.
When can Writing Fiction Change the World?

Thanks for the links, which definitely include things I wish I'd managed to find earlier. Also I loved the special containment procedures framing of the story objects.

I wonder if there is any information on whether very many people's minds actually are changed by The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas, my experience of reading it was very much like what I claimed the standard response of people exposed to fiction they already strongly disagree with was: Not getting convinced. I did think about it a bunch, and I realized that I have this weird non-ut... (read more)

The EA Meta Fund is now the EA Infrastructure Fund

Okay, I suppose that's vaguely legit. They are in broadly the same space. And also the new name is definitely better.

timunderwood's Shortform

Does anyone know about research on the influence of fiction on changing elite/public behaviors and opinions?

The context of the question is that I'm a self published novelist, and I've decided that I want to focus the half of my time that I'm focusing on less commercial projects on writing books that might be directly useful in EA terms, probably by making certain ideas about AI more widely known. I at some point decided it might be a good idea to learn more about examples of literature actually making an important difference beyond the examp... (read more)

Will AGI cause mass technological unemployment?

I think the standard assumption is that with any task you can create an expert system that is cheaper to power and run than it is to feed humans. Though I was talking with someone during EAG Virtual who was worried that humans might be one of the most efficient tools if you are only thinking about needing to feed them, and then it would be efficient for malevolent AI to enslave them.

I think the basic issue with the argument is that we are dealing with a case that Tiger Woods can just create a new copy of himself to mow the lawn while another copy is filmin... (read more)

Dignity as alternative EA priority - request for feedback

Again asking for more clarification on what dignity means.

I do think though things that intuitively seem to me to be similar what you are probably talking about with dignity could be important considerations, though I suspect they are unlikely to be cost competitive with mosquito nets and vaccines if you are making direct benefit calculations.

Perhaps we mean something like: Being respected by your community, and treated with respect by the system as a whole, having direct control over your life and what you do day to day, ie being able to meaningfully choo... (read more)

2tomwein1yHi Tim. Thanks for your comment. I've tried to explain in a little more depth what I mean by dignity in a response above [] , and there's a deeper discussion in my WIP literature review []. But I think your definition is a reasonable approximation - and your closing thought seems about the same level that I would estimate the possible scale of this. Cash transfers seem like a good example of an intervention that is pretty dignity-focused. I like your point about how the individual might trade-off between respectful treatment and malarial drugs, because it nicely illustrates what we don't know - in that case, the trade-off is probably clear, whereas in the case of for example a disrespectful but otherwise useful entrepreneurship training scheme, the trade-off is much less clear. Without measuring respectfulness, we can't be precise about those trade-offs - but as I said in a response above, this probably has more relevance for the bulk of mid-level development interventions, and less relevance for the most effective interventions that EAs are most concerned about.
A critique of effective altruism

"They’re effectiveness-minded and with $60 billion behind them. 80,000 Hours has already noted that they’ve probably saved over 6 million lives with their vaccine programs alone—given that they’ve spent a relatively small part of their endowment, they must be getting a much better exchange rate than our current best guesses."

What I've so far read in this essay is very good, however I'd note the foundation has spent almost 30 billion, a large fraction of it on vaccines (I can't find how much with a simple search). The numbers suggest the cost per life saved is in the 1-2k range, or at least the high three digits. Which is in the same range as the AMF estimates.

0Ben_Kuhn8yIn 2010 they announced that they would "more than double" their vaccine spending to 10 billion total, by 2020 (e.g. []. That puts it in the mid-to-high three digits range, which is about three times better than AMF. I wouldn't call that "the same range" as the AMF estimates, especially since it's no longer so clear that those estimates even apply to marginal dollars given to AMF.