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.michaela on How valuable would more academic research on forecasting be? What questions should be researched?
Thanks for sharing this, I'll try look over it soon.max_daniel on When Planning Your Career, Start Early
I think that's a good point worth highlighting.
As one data point, I first heard of EA only toward the end of my master's degree. Before, I had a fairly different mindset regarding my career. It seems extremely obvious to me that it would have been very beneficial if I had heard of EA, and in particular 80K's career advice, years earlier.
(Even though it might not be that obvious from the outside, e.g. I started an "EA job" immediately after I finished my master's.)jorgen_ljones on Against the Social Discount Rate (Cowen & Parfit) - Weak refutations
Thanks for pointing out these unclear sentences. I've made some changes in this paragraph to make my point more clearly.
The first part of the sentence remains; in some views, it is not right that a giver of gifts get any privileges on other benefits. But in a pure utilitarian view, this might be the case in some sense. If one party provides a gift to another, otherwise equal party, this will create an inequality that decrease the total utility. A pure utilitarian view will demand that a redistribution of benefits should follow to restore the equal situation.
Of course, the utilitarian will not use the term "rights" or "privileges" to argue the case for a redistribution after the gift. Also, it is worth pointing out that in a utilitarian view the initial gift is immoral as it decreases total utility, but this is a bit beside the point as this gifting is an assumed fact with this argument.mss74 on Prioritizing COVID-19 interventions & individual donations
No worries, glad it was useful. Thought I would update that we've put all that information into a website with somewhat regularly updated summaries of the pandemic responses in the various Southeast Asian countries: www.regionalrelief.orgalexrjl on What questions would you like to see forecasts on from the Metaculus community?
Lots of good ideas here, and I think I'll be able to help with several, sent you a pm.ablank on The extreme cost-effectiveness of cell-based meat R&D
Hi. I think there is an error in the part your analysis dealing with the cost of developing cell-based meat.
Assume in the business as usual scenario (where you do not contribute) the same amount of money is funded (by other people) every year until cell-based meat becomes cost-competitive with animal-based meat on the market. In other words, if 108 euro were not invested in cell-based meat this year, the arrival of cell-based meat on the market would be delayed by one year.
If i understood correctly, we are operating under the simplifying assumption where developing cost-competitive cell-based meat has some up front cost C and then yields U utility every year, forever, starting once that up front cost is paid. If we're choosing between a bunch of interventions that work the same way, then we should first fund whichever intervention has the highest return on investment, which would be U/C.
In comparing two different interventions that achieve an equally good outcome, we should fund whichever has the lower cost. I don't think we can get away with not making an actual estimate of the cost required to accomplish the goal. Under the reasoning used in your analysis, where the current level of funding is used as the cost to advance progress by one year, we would instead end up choosing to fund whichever intervention has the lowest current level of funding, even if completing it would cost more than an alternative intervention.kbog on An Effective Altruist "Civic Handbook" for the USA (draft, calling for comments and assistance)
Sentkbog on Existential Risk and Economic Growth
Neat paper. One reservation I have (aside from whether x-risk depends on aggregate consumption or on tech/innovation, which has already been brought up) is the assumption of the world allocating resources optimally (if impatiently). I don't know if mere underinvestment in safety would overturn the basic takeaways here, but my worry is more that a world with competing nation-states or other actors could have competitive dynamics that really change things.kbog on Why accelerating economic growth and innovation is not important in the long run
Thanks! Great find. Having read through it, I gather that positive economic shocks increase X-risk but indefinite increases in the rate of economic growth decrease it. I'm not sure if I trust the model tho.