will_c

165Joined Oct 2021

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19

I don't think that's correct. There's a recent study showing a reduction in mortality for prisoners that are incarcerated relative to a control group of people who were not incarcerated. It appears that most of the reduction in mortality is from reduction in overdose death risk but also a reduction in homicide. The implication is that people in prisons are safer than they would be outside. Probably most of the data showing otherwise comes from poorly done studies that don't use appropriate control groups, EG they may use the general population as control group relative to prisoners.

https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3644719

I strongly agree. I'm glad you wrote this post. I tweeted about this a few weeks ago

 

I have also had reasonable success in convincing normies that worrying about AI risk is sensible, or at least not crazy, in the last few months. Oddly enough, GPT-3 hasn't impressed people as much as DALLE-2, even though the former seems scarier/more capable to me. 

 

I have yet to bring it up in policy circles, but I think the Overton window on AI risk has widened quite a bit. 

I think it is an impressive effect, though I agree people not wanting to be in prison is more important. 

Using a panel of all defendants over the seven years after sentencing, we fnd that incarcerated defendants have a more than 60% lower mortality rate during the time of incarceration than similar defendants who were not incarcerated (an average of 230 deaths per hundred thousand annually as compared to 587 deaths per hundred thousand annually). The main sources of these differences are dramatically lower risks of mortality from homicide, overdose, or suicide during the period of incarceration. Defendants also have a lower risk of mortality from natural causes of death such as heart disease while incarcerated, potentially due to increased access to medical care

I wonder if this paper, which appears to show that incarceration reduces prisoner mortality relative to non-incarcerted but criminal-justice-involved people, should change your estimates of CJ reform benefits. Given that, it seems plausible that reducing prison stays actually increases mortality for prisoners.

 

Another interesting thing about this paper is the implication that the previous work on this topic (which used the general population as the control group) was flawed in an obvious way. That should generally lower our opinion of the academic literature on this topic. 

That's an interesting idea. It seems like an effort that would require a lot of subject-matter expertise, so your idea to commision the CJ folks makes sense. 

 

I do wonder if cause areas that rely on academic fields which we have reason to believe may be ideologically biased would generally benefit from some red-teaming process. 

Excellent post. I have a strong prior that academic literature on criminology is biased, so I am more inclined than you to guess that consensus estimates for criminal justice reform not having net negative effects on crime are too optimistic. So my guess for second-order effects is that they make criminal justice reform even less valuable relative to other global health/wellness causes.

Putting that aside, I think one reason Open Phil might have been so favorably inclined to criminal justice reform was the bipartisan consensus that pursuing it was a good idea.  The 2010's were a uniquely good time to purse criminal justice reform (until ~ 2020, when increasing crime rates made criminal justice reform less bipartisan). 

Perhaps you could call this the "The  Hinge Hypothesis"-- during the years that Open Phil made large donations to criminal justice reform efforts, it was a uniquely good time to do so. I think this was a reasonable guess, though I don't think it brings the QALYs/$ to parity with other global health/wellness goals. 

missing something here

: "Peter Wildeford looks at the chances of accidental nuclear war (a), by giving the chance of a nuclear incident based on historical frequency using Laplace's law, and then his"

Another reason to doubt the infertility-->declining birth rate story is that some populations that live in similar environments have maintained very high fertility rates.

Ultra Orthodox Jews live close to other city dweller in the US, have high-ish levels of obesity (implying similar food environment to average westerner, which is a reason to think Amish living as farmers might be exempt), and have high fertility rates.

Also, there are some factors, like much better treatment of STDs, that should, all other things being equal, reduce infertility rates. Historically, STDs could be a major cause of infertility.

Also, the relationship between sperm count and conception rates is not linear. IIRC, after about 20 million/ML, higher sperm counts don't mean higher conception rates. So a 25% reduction in sperm count might not have much effect on conception rates for most men above that threshold, if that decline is even real.

(Apologies for the lack of citations, on mobile, will link later)

Incremental Institutional Review Board Reform

Epistemic Institutions, Values and Reflective Process

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) regulate biomedical and social science research. In addition to slowing and deterring life-saving biomedical research, IRBs interfere with controversial but useful social science research, eg, Scott Atran was deterred from studying Jihadi terrorists; Mark Kleiman was deterred from studying the California prison system, and a Florida State University IRB cited public controversy as a reason to deter research. We would like to see a group focused on advocating for plausible reforms to IRBs that allow more social science research to be performed. Some plausible examples:

  1. Prof. Omri Ben-Shahar’s proposal to replace exempt IRB reviews with an electronic checklist or
  2.  Zachary Schrag’s proposal (from Ethical Imperialism) that Congress remove social science research from OHRP jurisdiction by amending the National Research Act of 1974. 

Concrete steps to these goals could be: 

  1. sponsoring a prize for the first university that allowed use of Prof. Omri Ben-Shahar’s electronic checklist tool;
  2.  setting up a journal for “Deterred Social Science Research”, in which professors publicly submit research proposals that their IRBs have rejected. 


 

Replacing Institutional Review Boards with Strict Liability

Biorisk, Epistemic Institutions, Values and Reflective Process

Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) regulate biomedical and social science research. As a result of their risk-averse nature, important biomedical research is slowed or deterred entirely; eg, the UK human challenge trial was delayed by several months because of a protracted ethics review process and an enrollment delay in a thrombolytics trial cost thousands of lives. In the US, a plausible challenge to IRB legality can be mounted on First Amendment grounds. We would be interested in funding a civil rights challenge to IRB legality, with the eventual goal of FDA guidance on control groups and strict liability replacing IRBs as a means of research regulation. This would have substantial overlap with our project idea of rapid countermeasure development to new pathogens.


 

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