I think more thoughts along this line would be super useful
Forthcoming post, hopefully within the next week.
Do you have more thoughts on what personal traits would indicate a great fit for pulling something like this off in another country? Besides a solid understanding of the political arena
I didn’t found the APPG so find it hard to judge what is needed to get something like this started. I think you do want sociability, charm and good networking skills to get a project off the ground, but also just having an existing good network or a few good allies might be sufficient.
Once it is off the ground it is not not really that sociable a job. It is more like being a PA but with a direction setting function. You are mostly building allies but emailing them or putting on events they would find interesting (inviting high quality speakers etc). Then you have some allies want to achieve roughly aligned goals, fix a system they see as broken, deal with environmental issues, etc. And you organise them, set up meetings, write things for them, find opportunities for them, arrange events where they all meet, etc. They do the actual meetings / TV appearances / etc.
So mostly organising and admin type work. You need to be good at emails and inviting speakers and important people to come to things via email, booking rooms and fundraising and so on.
But there is also a that direction setting side. For which you do need the ability to be self directed and able to think and strategise and a super solid understanding of the political arena, politics, policy making, etc. That said to some degree a good advisory board can help if you don’t have a great understanding of all of those things, and you do learn by doing.
Oh and you need to be good at knowing how to influence, not necessarily in person, but how to do a bit of research on someone and know what to email to them or their staff to for example get them to come talk at or attend an event or sign up to a campaign.
I have also done a fair amount of policy research but that is a different type of skill and mostly needs brains and experience in policy and writing ability.If you are interested you can see the interview plan we used for hiring, interview questions, ideal candidate, weightings for interview questions, etc here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1RN6u_TMnFZYbWQWGKJwBt6PzO3gNSrfMDHeeCufSXB0/
In my humble opinion, you are totally correct about the first argument and Cowen and Parfit are totally correct about the second argument. (Note: I haven't read the paper just your post).
The first argument is philosophy. If a person genuinely believes that a state has a greater duty to its current citizens today than to future citizens then that person should probably apply a social discount. All that can be done to counter a philosophical intuition is to point out that there are intuitions that would suggest otherwise, clearly unpersuasive to someone who doesn’t share your intuitions you.
That said I think the Cowen and Parfit argument could be stronger by pointing out the mutual benefits or intergenerational trade, our place in history and how much we benefit form forward thinking ancestors, and the benefits to us of planning long term.
Cowen and Parfit are correct this is not a case of double counting. The whole point of a social discount rate is to allow your economic models to map your goals. So the fact they align with your goals is not double counting, it is just counting. It would be like claiming that if I would intuitively buy tasty food, then decided to build a model to map out my preferences, I should discount the value of nice tastes because I already consider nice tastes. Which is rubbish as I would just end up using the model (rather than my intuition) to choose what to buy and then having less nice tasting food than I would ideally like.
Now you can use discounts to adjust for biases. For example if you know you always overestimate the value of tastiness of food compared to other factors, even after applying your model, then you could apply a factor to try to counter this intuition. (Real world example even after applying models people underestimate construction costs due to optimism bias etc so add a factor to increase estimated construction costs). But this is if you feel you have a bias that does not match your goals, even after using a model to make decisions. Making the case for this would require some empirical evidence that such a bias exists. But the evidence does not point in this way which leads to the second point that Cowen and Parfit raise that you do not discuss which is a key part of the argument.
All the evidence suggests that humans do not value the future as much as they would ideally like to. If anything an empirical examination comparing what we do for the future compared to what we want for the future should suggest (as Cowen and Parfit highlight) a negative discount rate, to push back against availability bias and political short-termism etc. (eg see: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20190318-can-we-reinvent-democracy-for-the-long-term)
Hope that helps.
Relevant policy report from the UK Parliament on enforcing the Ministerial Code of good behaviour, (from 2006): https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200506/cmselect/cmpubadm/1457/1457.pdf
(I wasn't sure what to do with this when I found it, I might add other policy reports I find to this thread too until I have the capacity to actually work on this in any detail)
Less directly relevant but somewhat interesting too: https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmpubadm/121/121i.pdf
I just want to say that this is one of the best things I have read on this forum. Thank you for such a thoughtful and eloquent piece. I fully agree with you.
To add to the constructive actions I think those working on EA community builidng (CEA and local community builders and 80K etc) should read and take note. Recommended actions for anyone in that position are to:
(Some notes I made in the past on this are here: https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/awS28gHCM9GBmhcAA/cea-on-community-building-representativeness-and-the-ea?commentId=jPw8xiwxmk23Y5tKx )
I think your claim is not that "all value-alignment is bad" but rather "when EAs talk about value-alignment, they're talking about something much more specific and constraining than this tame interpretation".
To attempt an answer on behalf of the author. The author says "an increasingly narrow definition of value-alignment" and I think the idea is that seeking "value-alignment" has got narrower and narrower over term and further from the goal of wanting to do good.
In my time in EA value alignment has, among some folk, gone from the tame meaning you provide of really wanting to figure out how to do good to a narrower meaning such as: you also think human extinction is the most important thing.
Hi, let me try and give some feedback on your career plan:
Your career plan sounds great!
• I think the thing the world is missing right now is a good understanding of how to create sustainable systemic change. I think an econ qualification with the aim of producing really high value research on issues that are pertinent to how to bring countries out of poverty would be a really high value action, and doing this kind of work is near the top of my to do list too.
However I would caution:
• Explore whilst you are young. The path sounds like it would be good for impact but I think it is important to work in the area where your strengths match. And you should think about ways to explore your strengths. This could be by getting a job and doing a Masters course part time or doing internships over the summer or doing something else for a year etc.
• Similarly, many of the academics I think are best at creating really useful research have some experience outside of academia in creating change. Eg: taken time out from academia to run for a political position or work in politics. You can get experience in a field that is pertinent to how change is created then you might be better able to address the problems. Also at some point in the future when you have a clearer idea to solutions you might want to pivot from academia to starting a campaign or a social enterprise etc so other experience is useful.
Hope that helps
I also want to clarify my statement that this was "low-medium value" was based on the current plan – I think there is valuable stuff here that could be teased out to make this useful to people in policy.
A good book summarising the academic work on how policy is made, how change happens, how external influences work, mapping out the whole space and giving an overview and different perspectives could be really really useful.
I wouldn’t give up on this idea – just maybe develop it further – can talk more if useful.
Hi Maxime and Konrad,
The target audience consists of policy practitioners, inside and outside of government, and scholars of the policy process.
I am going to give a reply from the point of view of a "policy practitioner", one of the intended groups of audiences for this book. I'm not familiar with "scholars of the policy process" so can't comment on the usefulness for them". I work very much in this space – promoting long-term policy making in the UK parliament.
Let us know your thoughts, questions and feedback in the comments
In short my immediate intuition is that this is medium-low value to policymakers and to me. Although this I would likely read this I doubt I would find it very useful to me.
As others have mentioned chapters 1 & 4-5 and chapters 2-3 seem like a different topics to be read for different reasons.
I think to someone in policy the content of chapters 2-3 seems quite basic. It is stuff that I know (or at least like to think I know). This matches my experience of the EA Geneva research I have read to date: of accurate descriptions of the policy process but quite basic and not very insightful to someone who has worked in policy for a while.
I personally think I would find it interesting to explore an academics' take on policy and see how it compares to my own knowledge. However I wouldn't expect to gain much if anything from reading this. Might be more useful to policy makers more junior in their career as introductory material.
Chapters 1 & 4-5
Chapters 1 & 4-5 seems of mixed usefulness. Chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 4 seems useful but the rest of chapter 4 and chapter 5 seems to be written very much for academics trying to study the field.
I hope that breakdown helps you refine this work. Just some initial thoughts. Happy to chat through and be constructive, especially if August works.
EDIT. Also if for a wider audience worth remembering that there are popular books on this or tangential to this. Like "The Precipice", "The Good Ancestor", "FutureGen", Will's next book, and a few others.
That doesn't seem like a good system. The bidding process and the actualisation of losses (tied to real social interests) keep the prisons in check.
I strongly disagree. Additional checks and balances that prevent serious problems occurring are good. You have already said your system could go wrong (you said "more realistic assumptions might show my proposed system is fundamentally mistaken") and maybe it could go wrong in subtle ways that take years to manifest as companies learn how they can twist the rules.
You should be in favour of checks and balances, and might want to explore what additional systems of checks would work best for your proposal. Options include: A few prisons running on a different system (eg state-run). A regulator for your auction based prisons. Transparency. The prisons being on 10 year loans from the state with contacts the need regular renewing so they would default to state ownership. Human rights laws. Etc. Maybe all of the above are things to have.
As an example, one thing that could go wrong (although it looks like you have touched on this elsewhere in the comments) is prisons may not have a strong incentive to care about the welfare of the prisoners whilst they are in the prison.
I'm interested to hear what you think.
Unfortunately I don’t have much useful to contribute on this. I don’t have experience running trials and pilots. I would think through the various scenarios by which a pilot could get started and then adapt to that. Eg what if you had the senior management of one prison that was keen. What about a single state. What about a few prisons. Also worth recognising that data might take years.
I used to know someone who worked on prison data collection and assessing success of prisons, if I see her at some point I could raise this and message you.