All of Vhanon's Comments + Replies

EA needs consultancies

Your question:

Why is it reasonable to assume the best people to hire for web development, marketing or events management would be EAs rather than a standard web dev org?

Answer from the post:

Web development projects for which EA context and habits are helpful, e.g. for new EA discussion platforms, forecasting/calibration software, or interactive visualizations of core EA ideas.

I think the emphasis is on the relationship with the EA community. You do not need to be an EA-dedicated consultancy team, but you should have some group dedicated to serving EA inter... (read more)

Refining improving institutional decision-making as a cause area: results from a scoping survey

The improving institutional decision-making (IIDM) working group (now the Effective Institutions Project) ran a survey asking members of the EA community which topics they thought were in scope of “improving institutional decision-making” (IIDM) as a cause area. 74 individuals participated. 

I  have the impression you asked people: is discussing about dogs or cats in the scope of improving decision in animal welfare? I would be very surprised if somebody did disagree.

That is a pity you stop at the presentation of the results. I believe the interes... (read more)

2Vicky Clayton1y
Thanks Vhanon. We did have some open text boxes so that we could pick up a bit more of the reasons why people gave the answers that they did. We've scattered those throughout the post so it's maybe a bit less obvious where we've included that information. I don't have answers to the questions you're posing (e.g. what would make respondents change their mind?) but some extra snippets which I thought were interesting but didn't make it into the final cut were about considering the decisions of non-human agents and also where to place interventions to shift people's values towards long-termism. The comments on activities tended to be around encouraging us to prioritise based on the skillset of the team.
On the limits of idealized values

Idealizing subjectivism: X is intrinsically valuable, relative to an agent A, if and only if, and because, A would have some set of evaluative attitudes towards X, if A had undergone some sort of idealization procedure. 

I feel you've been discussing how confusing the consequences of the definition above are. Then, why don't you just drop the definition and revise it?

I would propose: X is intrinsically valuable, relative to an agent A belonging to a close-influence set of agents S, if and only if, and because, A and all the agents in S would have some ... (read more)

Exploring Existential Risk - using Connected Papers to find Effective Altruism aligned articles and researchers

That is a very nice bibliography exploration software.

May I ask you what the 2D dimensions of the graph represent?

Are they  dimensions of maximal variance obtained from principal component analysis or are they two specific properties?

Do you think it could be helpful to publish the weight of the dimensions along side the graph?


What about the number of the articles, what dictates what is included and what is excluded?

Is there any way to include or exclude more articles?


What data are you using for the categorisation? Is this all objective dat... (read more)

What are some moral catastrophes events in history?

Your definition of moral catastrophe is based on historical measurable effects. It does not take into account internal human experiences, and it does not completely represent those subtle changes of human thinking and behaviours that could be considered immoral.  I would argue that the moral catastrophe is already in small every day immoral choices that slowly creep in the mind of people and become normal patterns of thinking.

There are moral catastrophe that lead to multiple catastrophic events like the idea of race superiority that eventually leads t... (read more)

Why scientific research is less effective in producing value than it could be: a mapping

In a way, this is similar to ineffective philantropy in general - perhaps "ineffective grantmaking" would be an appropriate heading?

That sounds a better heading indeed. Although grantmakers define the value of a research outcome, they might not be able to correctly promote their vision due to their limited resources. 

However, as the grantmaking process is what defines the value of a research, your heading might be misinterpreted as the inability to define valuable outcomes (which is in contradiction with your working hypothesis)

What about "inefficient... (read more)

1C Tilli1y
I added an edit with a link to this thread now =)
Why scientific research is less effective in producing value than it could be: a mapping

I/we would love to get input on this mapping [...] ii. any of the problems described here is overstated.


Point 2.3 "founding priorities of grantmakers " does not sound a problem to me in the context of your analysis.   In the opening of your post, you show concern in the production of a valuable results:

Instead, I will just assume that when we dedicate resources to research we are expecting some form of valuable outcome or impact.

Who is supposed to define the valuable outcome if not a grantmaker? Are you perhaps saying that specific grantmakers a... (read more)

1C Tilli1y
Thanks for this! You make a good point, the part on funding priorities does become kind of circular. Initially the heading there was "Grantmakers are not driven by impact" - but that got confusing since I wanted to avoid defining impact (because that seemed like a rabbit hole that would make it impossible to finish the post). So I just changed it to "Funding priorities of grantmakers" - but your comment is valid with either wording, it does make sense that the one who spends the resources should set the priorities for what they want to achieve. I think there is still something there though - maybe as you say, a lack of alignment in values - but maybe even more that a lack of skill in how the priorities are enforced or translated to incentives? It seems like even though the high-level priorities of a grant-maker is theirs to define, the execution of the grantmaking sometimes promotes something else? E.g. a grantmaker that has a high-level objective of improving public health, but where the actual grants go to very hyped-up fields that are already getting enough funding, or where the investments are mismatched with disease burdens or patient needs. In a way, this is similar to ineffective philantropy in general - perhaps "ineffective grantmaking" would be an appropriate heading?
What should the norms around privacy and evaluation in the EA community be?

On the other hand, making evaluations public is more informative for readers, who may acquire better models of reality if the evaluations are correct, 

I am in agreement. Please, let me note that people can still get a good model of reality even if they do not know the names of the people involved.

If evaluations did not contain the name of the subjects, do you think it would still be easy for readers to connect the evaluation to the organisations being evaluated? Perhaps you could frame the evaluation so that links are not clear. 

or be able to poi

... (read more)
Why did EA organizations fail at fighting to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic?

If that's not what organization like the FLI are for, what's are they for?


They do their best to gather data, predict events on the base of the data and give recommendations. However data is not perfect, models are not a perfect representation of reality, and recommendations are not necessarily unanimous. To err is human, and mistakes are possible, especially when the foundation of the applied processes contain errors.

Sometimes people just do not have enough information, and certainly nobody can gather information if data does not exist. Still a decis... (read more)

Why did EA organizations fail at fighting to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic?

Why didn't the big EA organizations listen more?


I realise the article excerpt you showed is not an accurate estimation. Marc and Thomas also say:

The record of laboratory incidents and accidental infections in biosafety level 3 (BSL3) laboratories provides a starting point for quantifying risk. Concentrating on the generation of transmissible variants of avian influenza, we provide an illustrative calculation of the sort that would be performed in greater detail in a fuller risk analysis. Previous publications have suggested similar approaches to this

... (read more)
Generally, if you don't have strong faith in the numbers the way to deal with it is to study it more. I was under the impressiong that understanding global catastrophic risk point of why we have organizations like FLI. Even if they didn't accept the numbers the task for an organization like FLI would be to make their own estimate. To go a bit into history, the reason the moratorium existed in the first place was that within the span of a few weeks 75 US scientists at the CDC got infected with anthrax and FDA employees found 16 forgotten vials of smallpox in storage and this was necessary to weaken the opposition to the moratorium in 2014 to get it passed. When the evidence for harm is so strong that it forces the hand of politicians, it seems to me reasonable expectation that organizations who's mission is it to think about global catastrophic risk analyse the harm and have a public position on what they think the risk happens to be. If that's not what organization like the FLI are for, what's are they for?