Thomas Kwa

Research contractor @ MIRI
2685 karmaJoined Feb 2020Berkeley, CA, USA



Doing alignment research with Vivek Hebbar's team at MIRI.


What do you mean by "compassionate"?

Should the EA Forum team stop optimizing for engagement?
I heard that the EA forum team tries to optimize the forum for engagement (tests features to see if they improve engagement). There are positives to this, but on net it worries me. Taken to the extreme, this is a destructive practice, as it would

  • normalize and encourage clickbait;
  • cause thoughtful comments to be replaced by louder and more abundant voices (for a constant time spent thinking, you can post either 1 thoughtful comment or several hasty comments. Measuring session length fixes this but adds more problems);
  • cause people with important jobs to spend more time on EA Forum than is optimal;
  • avoid community members and "EA" itself from keeping their identities small, as politics is an endless source of engagement;
  • distract from other possible directions of improvement, like giving topics proportionate attention, adding epistemic technology like polls and prediction market integration, improving moderation, and generally increasing quality of discussion.

I'm not confident that EA Forum is getting worse, or that tracking engagement is currently net negative, but we should at least avoid failing this exercise in Goodhart's Law.

I was thinking of reasons why I feel like I get less value from EA Forum. But this is not the same as reasons EAF might be declining in quality. So the original list would miss more insidious (to me) mechanisms by which EAF could actually be getting worse. For example I often read something like "EA Forum keeps accumulating more culture/jargon; this is questionably useful, but posts not using the EA dialect are received increasingly poorly." There are probably more that I can't think of, and it's harder for me to judge these...

Yeah, I don't think it's possible for controlled substances due to the tighter regulation.

Note that people in US/UK and presumably other places can buy drugs on the grey market (e.g. here) for less than standard prices. Although I wouldn't trust these 100%, they should be fairly safe because they're certified in other countries like India; gwern wrote about this here for modafinil and the basic analysis seems to hold for many antidepressants. The shipping times advertised are fairly long but potentially still less hassle than waiting for a doctor's appointment for each one.

Thanks. It looks reassuring that the correlations aren't as large as I thought. (How much variance is in the first principal component in log odds space though?) And yes, I now think the arguments I had weren't so much for arithmetic mean as against total independence / geometric mean, so I'll edit my comment to reflect that.

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