Thanks for writing this. I've had similar questions myself.
I think the incentives issue here is a big one. One way I've wondered about addressing it is to find a bunch of people who forecast really well and whose judgments are not substantially affected by forecasting incentives. Then have them forecast risks. Might that work, and has anyone tried it?
I'm excited to see this! One thing I'd mention on the historian path and its competitiveness is you could probably do a lot of this sort of work as an economic historian with a PhD in economics. Economic historians study everything from gender roles to religion and do ambitious if controversial quantitative analyses of long-term trends. While economists broadly may give little consideration to historical context, the field of economic history prides itself on actually caring about history for its own sake as well, so you can spend time doing traditional historian things, like working with archival documents (see the Preface to the Oxford Encyclopedia of Economic History for a discussion of the field's norms).
The good thing here is it probably allows for greater outside options and potentially less competitiveness than a history PhD given the upsides of an economics PhD. You could also probably do similar work in political science.
>> Our impression is that although many of these topics have received attention from historians (examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5), some are comparatively neglected within the subject, especially from a more quantitative or impact-focused perspective.
I'd also note that some of these cites I don't think are history—2 and 4 are written by anthropologists. (I think in the former case he's sometimes classified as a biologist, psychologist, or economist too.)
I really do hope we have EAs studying history and fully support it, and I just wanted to give some closely related options!
Great post, and thanks for writing it. One note: if polarization is defined as "more extreme views on each issue" (e.g. more people wanting extremely high or extremely low taxes), then it does not seem to be happening according to some research. The sort of polarization happening in the U.S. is more characterized as ideological sorting. That is, views on any particular issue (abortion, affirmative action, gun control) don't have more mass on the extremes than before, but the views in each political party are less mixed.
This is nonetheless important, and I don't think it radically changes much of what you said. Affect toward the opposite party is still much more negative than before. But it might suggest we should be more concerned about the conflict between the parties itself (e.g. abusing constitutional norms, cancellation) and less concerned about their policies per se.
Great post, and I'm excited to see RP work on this. I have great confidence in your carefulness about this.
A concern I have with pretty much every approach to weighting welfare across species is that it seems like the correct weights may depend on the type of experience. For example, I could imagine the intensity of physical pain being very similar across species but the severity of depression from not being able to move to vary greatly.
Is there a way to allow for this within the approach you lay out here?
I found this informative:
Are you more funding- or talent-constrained?
Oscar: There are lots of researchers out there who would work on this if we offered them funding to do so.
Michelle: Wild Animal Initiative is primarily funding-constrained. Hiring can also be challenging, but not as much.
Peter: Funding-constrained. We have had to turn away talented people we didn’t have the funds to hire.
Given that most of the messaging in the EA community for a couple years has been that human capital constraints are greater than funding constraints, I was surprised to see this. I know there have been objections that this messaging is focused on longtermist and movement-building work and less representative of farmed animal advocacy, for example, but this is an update for me.
I had not read through the CEA mistakes page before (linked in your post), and I am very impressed with it. I wanted to note that I'm pleased and kind of touched that the page lists neglect of animal advocacy in the 2015 and 2016 EAGs. I was one of the advocates who was unhappy, and I was not sure whether there was recognition of this, so it was really meaningful to see CEA admit this and detail steps that are taken.
Very interesting! I wanted to note that this further supports Will's comment on his recent post that understanding prior-setting better could be very high-impact.
Yeah, I agree the facile use of "white supremacy" here is bad, and I do want to keep ad hominems out of EA discourse. Thanks for explaining this.
I guess I still think it makes important enough arguments that I'd like to see engagement, though I agree it would be better said in a more cautious and less accusatory way.
I think the concerns about utopianism are well-placed and merit more discussion in effective altruism. I'm sad to see the post getting downvoted.
Not posting this because I agree with it but rather because I think it's one of the more influential econ papers actually dealing with the reality of addiction: Bernheim and Rangel 2004 those suffering from addiction have no control and are poorer (even then people of the same ex ante income), and for those not suffering from addiction it's not obvious why they are irrational.
I think the conclusion is almost certainly wrong, but why it's wrong is a bit subtle and hard to pin down, so I thought it might be a helpful thing to be aware of going into this. It's published in the AER so it's sort of an influential enhancement of Larks's comment.
(Also full disclosure that Bernheim is my advisor. That mostly just makes me more perplexed by this paper.)