All of Writer's Comments + Replies

Robin Hanson's Grabby Aliens model explained - part 1

Thanks! I'm curious if there's a particular aspect of the video that you found particularly good and if you found it significantly better than the other videos on Rational Animations (if you have watched them).

I'm trying to understand what made this particular video more appreciated than the other ones.

3JP Addison17dIt was the first I watched, selected because I remembered this post, or maybe someone mentioned it a few months ago? I liked the cute dog aliens, and it was at the sweet spot of novel+specific enough to be interesting, but not too complex for relaxing after work.
thank machine doggo

reminds me of Good Hunting, by Ken Liu

but better, faster, dogger

truly a masterpiece

thank machine doggo

What is your favorite EA meme?

I'm still not entirely sure if I'm going to write this. I didn't do it when I was freer, and now work is piling up fast. If someone wants to write something inspired from this meme and is curious about what I had in mind PM me.

Robin Hanson's Grabby Aliens model explained - part 1

Thanks :) 

It is going strong! Now views are coming in from YouTube recommending the video. 

What is your favorite EA meme?

I know how to turn this into a cool story. I'm going to try. If I end up giving up, I will post the idea as a reply to this comment.

1Writer4moI'm still not entirely sure if I'm going to write this. I didn't do it when I was freer, and now work is piling up fast. If someone wants to write something inspired from this meme and is curious about what I had in mind PM me.
Outline of Galef's "Scout Mindset"

Here's some more evidence I got in favor of the fact that this is a particularly good book to give to new people. So far, the Rational Animations video about the "Rethinking Identity" section is the channel's most appreciated video in terms of comments, both on Reddit and YT. Also, I'm seeing comments suggesting that at least some people deeply understand and incorporate the message. On r/videos, which is a pretty generalist sub, I'm finding some uplifting (for me) interactions:

I've seen some criticism of this book in EA/Rationality spaces and in some Amaz... (read more)

[PR FAQ] Sharing readership data with Forum authors

I've returned home, and my simulated self is not disintegrated, because he can't compare these metrics with other posts, so he should be fine.

[PR FAQ] Sharing readership data with Forum authors

This is really cool, and definitely an improvement. I already know it will finish destroying my sanity! :) I can't wait to return home, use the pc, and be utterly disintegrated. I'm especially excited about the prospect of discovering lots of views accompanied by very little engagement.

5Writer5moI've returned home, and my simulated self is not disintegrated, because he can't compare these metrics with other posts, so he should be fine.
New blog: Cold Takes

Thank you :) yes I've also asked for feedback in that group on the scripts of our next two videos

New blog: Cold Takes

Rational Animations' writer here. I am just chiming in to say (albeit 20 days later) that we're interested in animating some of the EA introductory articles. We are also interested in adapting blog posts by Holden or anyone else writing about important/interesting stuff.

Before doing more core EA content, though, I want to improve some more. And potentially have someone (paid) always to edit, fact check, and PR-sanity-check my scripts. For now, I will fly pretty close to EA with some videos, but I will avoid EA branding till I'm exceedingly sure that Rational Animations' contribution will be a net positive. Which is probably at least a period of a few months.


2PeterSlattery6moGreat, really glad to hear. Let me know if you want my help! Are you aware of this []group - you could also probably get or even hire some good help there.
An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

Update: as a result of feedback here and in other comments (and some independent thinking), we made a few updates to the channel.

  • Made new thumbnails without the clickbaity feel that the previous ones had.
  • Changed titles (I did that already weeks ago, but it's worth mentioning again).
  • Removed the arm from the cover photo.
  • Removed mentions of EA from the channel description. For now, I will associate the channel with EA and LW the least I can. I will mention names of specific EA topics (e.g. Longtermism) only when I think it's really necessary. And it will be p
... (read more)
A lateral way of thinking about Cause X: barely visible but potentially enormous categories of value

I'm trying to write a script that integrates the concept of my article here, and I read yours attentively only a few minutes ago to see if there were ideas to integrate. I found it beautiful so thank you for linking it. 

I also got a similar experience as the one you describe getting while listening to Popcorn. Mine was with World of Warcraft when I was 12. I remember thinking "imagine how sad would it be if I was born in a world without World of Warcraft".  Obviously there would have been way sadder things about being born, say, two centuries earlier, but it's still true that I would have missed out on something irreplaceable .

What would an entity with GiveWell's decision-making process have recommended in the past?

This looks super interesting to me. We can, in a sense, simulate a longer history of Effective Altruism and see what patterns there are.

An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

Oh sure, without a doubt, if there is a better video to be made with little additional effort, making that video is obviously better, no denying that. 

I asked that question because you said:

I don't think the video is high enough quality for it to be a good thing for more people to see it

And that's way more worrying than "this video could be significantly improved with little effort". At least I would like to start with a "do no harm" policy. Like, if the channel does harm then the channel ought to be nuked if the harm is large enough. If the channel has just room for improvement that's a different kettle of fish entirely.

2WilliamKiely7moGotcha. I don't actually have a strong opinion on the net negative question. I worded my comment poorly.
An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

I refrained from liking the video on YouTube and don't expect to share it with people not famililar with longtermism as a means of introducing them to it because I don't think the video is high enough quality for it to be a good thing for more people to see it

I think your feedback in the other comment is mostly correct, but... aren't those relatively minor concerns? Do you think the video actually has net negative impact in its present form? Some of your criticism is actually about Bostrom's paper, and that seems like it had a fairly positive impact.

2WilliamKiely7moAssuming this is what your comment is in reference to: I looked at Bostrom's paper after and I think his sentence about 1% reduction in x-risk being like a 10M+ year delay before growth is actually intuitive given his context (he mentioned that galaxies exist for billions of years just before), so I actually think the version of this you put in the script is significantly less intuitive. The video viewer also only has the context of the video up to that point whereas thr paper reader has a lot more context from the paper. Also videos should be a lot more comprehensible to laypeople than Bostrom papers. I think the question of whether the video will be net negative on the margin is complicated. A more relevant question that is easier to answer is "is it reasonable to think that a higher quality video could be made for a reasonable additional amount of effort and would that be clearly better on net to have given the costs and benefits?" I think the answer to this is "yes" and if we use that as the counterfactual rather than no video at all, it seems clear that you should target producing that video, even if your existing video is positive on net relative to no video.
Introducing Rational Animations

Oh yeah I'm already talking with Jeroen :)

An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

I feel like this is the most central criticism I had so far. Which means it is also the most useful. I think it's very likely that what you said is also the sentiments of other people here. 

I think you're right about what you say and that I botched the presentation of the first videos. I'll defend them a little bit here on a couple of points, but not more. I will not say much in this comment other than this, but know that I'm listening and updating.

1. The halo effect video argues in part that the evolution of that meme has been caused by the halo effe... (read more)

An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)
  1. I don't really get this feedback. Does reality say that people are actually more negative about Longtermism if it is introduced in this way? I'm a big fan of technological advancement and I expect my audience to be sort of similar. Also, what about engagement? I'm ok getting more criticism if it means more engagement (provided correctness of the content, and still all within reason). Does this make sense? In a previous version of the script there were also emulations in the mix! My experience says that on YT you ought to optimize for being the least boring
... (read more)
6Aaron Gertler7moOn (1), all fair questions. * I'm running off of my own experience here (talking about longtermism with many dozens of people), rather than survey data. In that experience, I've seen most people round off "one second saves billions of lives" to "okay, I acknowledge that given these assumptions it's important to advance technology and reduce risk". But a few people seem to be (mentally) rolling their eyes a bit, or finding that the gigantic number of zeroes to be a bit absurd. * I think discussions of those numbers will eventually come up if people are serious about exploring the topic, but for first-time exposure, my impression is that people care more about getting a general sense of what's at stake ("if humanity goes to the stars, there could be trillions of us, living happily for thousands of generations") than getting the exact EV of X-risk work based on the size of the Virgo Supercluster. * Put another way: If the choice is between "you can enable a flourishing life in expectation for one one-trillionth of a penny" and "you can enable a flourishing life in expectation for a few cents", and the latter argument seems less suspicious to enough people that it's 10% more convincing overall, I'd favor that argument. It's hard for me to picture someone being compelled by the first and not the second. * Though "it's hard for me to picture" definitely doesn't mean those people don't exist. I'm just not sure I've met them. * Emulations actually seem like a good addition under this paradigm — they're a neat way of indicating that the future will be good in strange ways the viewer hasn't considered, and they give me a "space utopia" feel that long strings of zeroes don't. * I agree that you want to not be boring, and you want to be personable. My issue is that I think that many people find gigantic numbers to be kind of borin
An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

Thanks a lot! This is definitely going to be helpful :)

An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

This is very very helpful feedback, thank you for taking the time to give it (here and on the other post). Also, I'm way less anxious getting feedback like this than trying to hopelessly gauge things by upvotes and downvotes. I think I need to talk more to individual EAs and engage more with comments/express my doubts more like I'm doing now. My initial instinct was to run away (post/interact less), but this feels much better other than being more helpful.

3MichaelA7moYeah, I think it is worth often posting, but that this is only partly because you get feedback and more so for other reasons (e.g., making it more likely that people will find your post/videos if it's relevant to them, via seeing it on the home page, finding it in a search, or tags). And comments are generally more useful as feedback than karma, and comments from specific people asked in places outside the Forum are generally more useful as feedback than Forum comments. (See also Reasons for and against posting on the EA Forum [] .)
An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

Hey, thanks a lot for this comment. It did brighten my mood.

I think I'll definitely want to send scripts to CEA's press team, especially if they are heavily EA related like this one. Do you know how can I contact them? (I'm not sure I know what's the CEA's press team. Do you mean that I should just send an e-mail to CEA via their website?)

5KMF7moAbsolutely :) Sky Mayhew < []> and <>. [] Sky is incredibly kind and has always given me brilliant feedback when I've had to do external-facing stuff before (which I find intensely nerve-wracking and have to do quite a lot of ). I can't speak more highly of their help. The people who have given me feedback on my sharing your video have mainly done so in the form of WOW face reactions on Slack FWIW- I'll let you know if I get anything else. My husband also loves this type of stuff and was psyched to watch your video too. :)
An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

This makes me think that I would definitely use more feedback. It makes me kind of sad that I could have added this point myself (together with precising the estimate by Toby Ord) and didn't because of...? I don't know exactly. 

Edit: one easy thing I could do is to post scripts in advance here or on LW and request feedback (other than messaging people directly and waiting for their answers, although this is often slow and fatiguing).

Edit 2: Oh, and the Slack group. Surely more ideas will come to me, I'll stop adding edits now.

9MichaelA7moFWIW, I think it's almost inevitable that a script of roughly the length you had will initially contain some minor errors. I don't think you should feel bad about that or like it's specific to you or something. I think it just means it's good to get feedback :) (And I think these minor errors in this case didn't like create notably downside risk or something, and it is still a good video.)

Hey- Don't be sad. It's really brave to do work like this and make it public - thank you :) I'd definitely recommend this to newcomers (Indeed, I just did! Edited to add: The animations are so cool here!).  You might consider sending future drafts through to CEA's press team- they have a large network of people and I have always found the quality of their feedback to be really high and helpful! Thanks again for this!    

An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

Thank you a lot for this feedback. I was perceiving that the main worry people here were having about Rational Animations was potential downsides, and that they were having this feeling mainly due to our artistic choices (because I was getting few upvotes, some downvotes and feedback that didn't feel very "central" I figured that there was probably something about the whole thing that was putting off some people but that they weren't able to put their finger on. Am I correct in this assessment?). I feel like I want to kind of update the direction of the channel because of this, but I need some time to reflect and maybe write a post to understand if what I'm thinking is what people here are also thinking. 

6MichaelA7moAlso, stepping back, I think you mainly need to answer two questions, which suggest different types of required data, neither of which is karma on the Forum/LessWrong: 1. Will it be net positive for these videos to be widely viewed by people who aren't (yet) highly engaged in the EA/rationality communities? How positive? Can the upsides of that be increased or the downsides decreased? 2. Will these videos be widely viewed by people who aren't (yet) highly engaged in the EA/rationality communities? I think Q1 is best answered through actively soliciting feedback on video ideas, scripts, rough cuts, etc. from specific people or groups who are unusually likely to have good judgement on such things. This could be people who've done somewhat similar projects like Rob Miles, could be engaged EAs who know about whatever topic you're covering in a given vid, could be non-EAs who know about whatever topic you're covering in a vid, or groups in which some of those types people can be found (e.g., the Slack I made). I think Q2 is best answered by the number of views your videos to date have gotten, the likes vs dislikes, the comments on YouTube, etc. I think Forum/LessWrong karma does serve as weak evidence on both questions, but only weak evidence. Karma is a very noisy and coarse-grained metric. (So I don't think getting low karma is a very bad sign, and I think there are better things to be looking at.)
5MichaelA7moI think maybe it's more like: * The category "work that's for large, mostly-non-EA audiences" can be prone to downside risks, so it's worth thinking about them at least briefly when thinking about something from that category * Making videos hasn't been tried much by EAs (excluding things like just videos of presentations / Q&As), so people have less of an idea of how to weigh up the upsides and downsides for that type of thing * And this is even more true for animated videos with a substantial sense of humour / substantial "quirkiness" * So some people are sort-of reflexively worried or unsure what to think I think that this makes not upvoting a pretty reasonable choice for someone who just sees the post/video and doesn't take the time to think about the pros and cons; maybe they want to neither encourage nor discourage something that's unfamiliar to them and that they don't know the implications of. I wouldn't endorse the downvotes myself, but I guess maybe they're based on something similar but with a larger degree of worry. Or maybe some people just personally don't enjoy the style/videos, separate from their beliefs about whether the channel should exist. I wouldn't guess that lots of people are actively opposed to specific artistic choices. Though I could of course be wrong.
An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

Copy-pasted your text and included both links with an "and". Also... any feedback on the video? This post's performance seems a little disappointing to me, as always.

Edit: oh I just see now that you replied above

3MichaelA7mo(Thanks for being receptive to and acting on this and Fin's feedback!)
An animated introduction to longtermism (feat. Robert Miles)

Updated the description with "Clarification: Toby Ord estimates that the chance of human extinction this century (and not in general) is around 1/6, which is 16.66...%"

3MichaelA7moActually, that's his estimate of existential catastrophe this century, which includes both extinction and unrecoverable collapse or unrecoverable dystopia [] . (I seem to recall that Ord also happens to think extinction is substantially more likely this century than the other two types of existential catastrophe, but I can't remember for sure, and in any case his 1/6 estimate is stated as being about existential catastrophe.) Maybe you could say: "Clarification: Toby Ord estimates that the chance of an existential catastrophe (not just extinction) this century (not across all time) is around 1/6; his estimate for extinction only might be lower, and his estimate across all time is higher. For more on the concept of existential catastrophe, see" ["] (Or you could use a more accessible link, e.g. [] )
2finm7moThanks for making both those updates :)
2finm7moI should also mention that Toby Ord's 1/6 (17ish%) figure is for the chance of extinction this century, which isn't made totally clear in the video (although I appreciate not much can be done about that)!
Introducing Rational Animations

Thanks, edited both here an on LW. Interesting feedback about the arm, but I'm also considering removing the arm entirely.

Introducing Rational Animations

This is all correct, but also notice that the most recent video among those that break the pattern of animated videos is 7 years old. When we'll have accumulated a lot of animated videos those old videos will be relegated at the bottom and have approximately zero impact on how people view the channel, other than being old curiosities. Also, an interesting datapoint that contradicts your thesis (although I agree with you, I wanted to point that out): VSauce. Look at his older videos. And they are a lot more!

One thing that I could do is to simply hide the mi... (read more)

Introducing Rational Animations

Thanks a lot, this looks useful. I'm joining.

Introducing Rational Animations

I totally understand this take and the animator said the same thing (so upvoted for giving me another data point here).

Now let me vent my frustration:

The sad thing is that your comment has a decent chance of being correct. I think that, yes,  at first glance minecraft videos may seem unprofessional. But man if you are correct that would be deeply deeply sad. Reality is: "redstone neuron in minecraft!" is utterly brilliant, even if I say so myself. It is a perceptron made with redstone. How cool is that? And probably one of the firsts, or the first, in... (read more)

9MichaelA7moHmm. I feel like I partly see where you're coming from, but there are two other things worth noting: * Maybe "confusing" is more important than "unprofessional" here. * The channel is called "Rational Animations", and the first few videos look like they match that, and then suddenly there's a few videos that just literally aren't animated (in the same sense) and also at least look like they're on totally different topics. E.g., a 24 hour clock. * I like Plenny Bars and I like Apple. But if I went to the Plenny Bar website and they were trying to sell me mostly Plenny Bars but also a phone, or the Apple website and they were trying to sell me mostly phones etc. but also snacks, I'd be confused. * This'd be very survivable for those companies because I already knew them * But if it was a company I was unfamiliar with, I might then reasonably click away, thinking "These people seem unfocused, I'm going to go to one of the hundreds of other potential suppliers". * It may genuinely not worth me spending 15 seconds looking into it closer and seeing if they have good reasons for their combo of focuses, when there's already so much competition and I didn't have much reason to think this new company was better than the competition. * Relatedly, I'd guess that this is like one of the cases where a stereotype actually does do better than random chance for prediction. * I haven't gathered any systematic data, but would bet that if we looked at a lot of channels aiming to do something like engaging communication of useful ideas, and compared ones that seemed to have a relatively clear and consistent focus, aesthetic, etc. to ones that have a minority if videos that at first look quite disconnected and in particular look like they're about hobbies like gami
Introducing Rational Animations

Thanks for this feedback. I did the actionable thing I could do and changed the titles of the first two animated videos.

Non-consequentialist longtermism

The paper "The Case for Strong Longtermism", by Hilary Greaves and William MacAskill, goes into deontic strong longtermism in section 6. Hope this is useful.

4Nathan_Barnard8moBut thank you for replying, in hindsight by reply seems a bit dismissive :)
5Nathan_Barnard8moNot really because that paper is essentially just making the consequentialist claim that axiological long termism implies that the action we should take are those which help the long run future the most. The Good is still prior to the Right.
Introducing Rational Animations

Err... the comments here and on LW seem neutral to positive. So why am I being downvoted so much? Is it the post or the channel? If it is the channel, I swear that better stuff is coming D: Maybe I should have just done a post after  that stuff. Too bad I guess. I didn't expect this reception.

I upvoted, but here are some comments I have. Looking at the titles of the first three videos, it wasn't clear how they related to rationality.

  • How Does Bitcoin Work? Simple and Precise 5…
  • Why Your Life Is Harder When You Are Ugly | The… (didn't notice the "Halo Effect" in the thumbnail at first)
  • Why You STRUGGLE to Finish on Time | The…

So perhaps people downvoted based on first impressions that it doesn't seem that related to rationality?

I enjoyed the Bitcoin, halo effect, and planning fallacy videos, but I didn't think that the video "If You Want to F... (read more)

Introducing Rational Animations

By "first three videos," I meant the first three animated videos. Pardon. There are old videos I mean to keep because they are generally on topic and either sort of historic (epic conway's game of life) or cute stuff from my adolescence, which was pretty good anyway. Not production-wise, but at least concept-wise. But most importantly most of my current public arrives from them.

Thanks for the link heads-up.

I think that that reasoning for keeping those older videos up makes some sense, but FWIW I think I'd be in favour of not having the Minecraft videos on the same channel. It looks to me kind-of confusing and/or unprofessional. I haven't watched the videos, and making doing so would suggest they're more relevant than I think, but a lot of people who click on your channel for the first time won't have watched those videos either and so would probably have a similar reaction to me. 

But this is just a quick take, and I don't know if it's a big deal.

Introducing Rational Animations

I don't think we should let the most unreasonable haters maneuver what we say, but if it is of any reassurance the plan is to have a channel with its own legs. It will not be a core brand thing to be associated with EA or LW*.  

That said, don't discount the value of the connection rationality-EA. It's probably true that EA is rationality applied to altruism, and many of the most valuable EAs are also LW people.

*Upon reflection, this is probably too early to say and not true right now. What I can say is that at least the channel probably won't be linked to the forums for the reasons already stated in the post.

7Neel Nanda8moAs a single point of anecdata, I got interested in EA via being part of the rationality community, and think it's plausible I would not have gotten involved in EA if there wasn't that link