comment by Simon_Knutsson ·
2019-11-01T05:32:56.344Z · EA(p) · GW(p)
A few updates: I have e-mailed the Open Philanthropy Project to ask about their activities. In particular about anyone at the Open Philanthropy Project trying to influence which ideas about, for example, moral philosophy, value theory or the value of the future, that a grant recipient or potential grant recipient talks or writes about in public. I have also asked whether I can share their replies in public, so hopefully there will be more public information about this. They have not replied yet but I have elaborated on this issue in the following section: https://www.simonknutsson.com/problems-in-effective-altruism-and-existential-risk-and-what-to-do-about-them/#Troublesome_work_behind_the_scenes_including_censoring_research_and_suppressing_ideas_and_debates
I have e-mailed with Bostrom about his claim that his “Undergraduate performance set national record in Sweden” and I have talked to the university he studied at. Again, this is a less important issue but it looks strange to me, it looks like a part of a broader pattern, and it feels valuable to check it. My latest published info on the issue can be found at https://www.simonknutsson.com/problems-in-effective-altruism-and-existential-risk-and-what-to-do-about-them/#Potentially_dishonest_self-promotion. A part of the info is the following: On Oct. 23, 2019, Bostrom replied and gave me permission to share his reply in public, the relevant part of which reads as follows:
The record in question refers to the number of courses simultaneously pursued at one point during my undergraduate studies, which – if memory serves, which it might not since it is more than 25 years ago – was the equivalent of about three and a half programs of full time study, I think 74 ’study points’. (I also studied briefly at Umea Univ during the same two-year period I was enrolled in Gothenburg.) The basis for thinking this might be a record is simply that at the time I asked around in some circles of other ambitious students, and the next highest course load anybody had heard of was sufficiently lower than what I was taking that I thought statistically it looked like it was likely a record.
A part of my e-mail reply to Bostrom on Oct. 24, 2019:
My impression is that it may be difficult to confirm that no one else had done what you did. One would need to check what a vast number of students did at different universities potentially over many years. I don’t even know if that data is accessible before the 1990s, and to search all that data could be an enormous task. My picture of the situation is as follows: You pursued unusually many courses at some point in time during your undergraduate studies. You asked some students and the next highest course load anyone of them had heard of was sufficiently lower. You didn’t and don’t know whether anyone had done what you did before. (I do not know either; we can make guesses about whether someone else had done what you did, but that would be speculation.) Then you claim on your CV “Undergraduate performance set national record in Sweden.” I am puzzled by how you can think that is an honest and accurate claim. Will you change your CV so that you no longer claim that you set a record?
Information about university studies seems publicly available in Sweden. When I called the University of Gothenburg on Oct. 21, 2019, the person there was not aware of any such national records and said they have the following information for Niklas Boström, born 10 March 1973: One bachelor’s degree (Swedish: fil. kand.) from University of Gothenburg awarded in January 1995. Coursework included theoretical philosophy. One master’s degree (Swedish: magister or fil. mag.) from Stockholm University. He also did some additional coursework. He started to study at university in Lund in fall 1992. I asked Bostrom whether this is him but he did not reply. More information that I noted from my call with the university include that the person could see information from different universities in Sweden, and there are in total 367.5 higher education credits in the system (from different Swedish universities) for Boström, according to the current method for counting credits. 60 credits is a normal academic year (assuming one does not, e.g., take summer courses). Boström bachelor’s degree corresponds to 180 credits, which is the exact requirement for a bachelor’s degree. The total number of credits (367.5) corresponds to 6.125 years of full-time study (again, assuming, e.g., no summer courses or extra evening courses). According to the university, he started studying in 1992 and, according to Bostrom’s CV, he studied at Stockholm University until 1996. I asked Bostrom and I gather he confirmed that he only has one bachelor’s degree. Overall, I doubt he set such a record (I think no one knows, including Bostrom himself), and I think he presents the situation in a misleading way.