edoarad's Shortform

post by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-08-16T13:35:05.296Z · EA · GW · 32 comments

32 comments

Comments sorted by top scores.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-12T16:16:55.846Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

AMF's cost of nets is decreasing over time due to economies of scale and competition between net manufacturers. https://www.againstmalaria.com/DollarsPerNet.aspx

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-07-20T07:41:45.464Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

There is a new initiative by Yuval Noah Harari, https://www.sapienship.co/. It is focused on global catastrophic risks from emerging tech. 

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-07-06T11:23:38.095Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Convergence (in Economics) is the idea that poorer countries will grow faster than rich countries, and as a result they would eventually converge. 

In my naive intuition I always imagined richer countries (or sub-communities in them) developing faster than lower income countries by some form of accelerating Endogenous Growth

I would be very interested in reading someone's take on the relevance of these considerations to EA, as I notice my world-view is very dependent on my beliefs on convergence. It feels important both for global poverty and for longtermism - I'd expect a multi-power world if we will have convergence and a singleton if we'd have a strong divergence, and I think that there can be convincing arguments here

comment by HStencil · 2020-07-06T20:53:28.233Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

At least until quite recently, there was a fairly uniform consensus in mainstream Anglo-American economics that the convergence thesis was true. I think this was mainly because it was based on fundamental theoretical insights that were believed to be relatively unimpeachable, like the Solow Model and the Stolper-Samuelson Theorem.

The Solow Model uses a formal representation of the idea that capital can be put to better use (yielding a higher economic return) in places where it is more scarce to demonstrate that, all other things being equal, places further from a given steady-state output level will grow toward that level faster than places nearer to it. In other words, ceteris paribus, places where capital stock is lower will grow faster than places where capital stock is higher because adding a marginal unit of capital in a capital-poor economy will generate a greater return than adding a marginal unit of capital in a capital-rich economy, where all the high-yielding capital investment opportunities have already been funded. (Bear in mind, though, that “ceteris paribus” is doing a lot of work in that sentence. You might reasonably claim that the traditional Solow Model holds constant nearly everything we ought to care about in trying to explain development outcomes.) To the extent that it’s true, though, in a world with open cross-border capital flows, one would expect capital to flood from low-return investment opportunities in wealthier countries to high-return investment opportunities in poorer countries. Alas, the evidence that this is actually taking place on a large scale is mixed at best, and other factors excluded from the neoclassical theories of international trade and finance likely play a large role in determining the global allocation of capital.

The productivity term in the Solow Model also often comes up in discussions of convergence. This term, representing an economy’s efficiency at deploying its factors of production to make things, is frequently treated—for the purpose of simplification—as a representation of an economy’s level of technological advancement alone. Traditional growth economists tend to treat rates of technological advancement as largely exogenous (whether this assumption is realistic is the subject of considerable debate). However, separate models of global technological advancement are typically built around the idea that it’s cheaper to copy a technology that was developed in another country and put it to use in one’s domestic industries than it is to develop a wholly new technology from scratch, thereby advancing the technological frontier. As a result, economists often conclude that countries not yet at the technological frontier will enjoy faster productivity growth than counties that are at the technological frontier, in accordance with the convergence paradigm.

The Stolper-Samuelson Theorem shows that when a national economy specializes in the production of a good in which it has a comparative advantage and then the relative price of that good rises on global markets, the return on investment in the factor of production that most contributes to making that good will rise. For example, if a country has a comparative advantage in making blue jeans, and it specializes in making blue jeans, and labor is the most important factor of production in making blue jeans, if the relative price of blue jeans on globals markets rises, then the return on investment in labor in that country will rise. This is equivalent to saying that the marginal product of labor in that country will rise, and in a competitive labor market, the price of labor (the wage) should equal its marginal product, so producer wages should rise with, for instance, a relative increase in global demand for blue jeans (which would push up the price).

There is vigorous debate over the extent to which the Stolper-Samuelson Theorem is applicable to world in which we live today. It requires making a number of assumptions in order for its conclusion to hold (constant returns to scale, perfect competition, an equal number of factors and products). One famous counterexample to Stolper-Samuelson was proposed Raúl Prebisch and Hans Singer and was embraced by the anti-trade left of the postwar years. Prebisch and Singer propose that because complex manufactured goods (like computers) exhibit greater income elasticity of demand than simple commodities (like wheat or coffee), if a country specializes in exporting wheat (consistent with its comparative advantage), and relies on imports from foreign manufacturers to get computers, as global incomes rise, it will suffer declining terms of trade (i.e. as time passes, each imported computer will cost more and more wheat). Today, the Prebisch-Singer Hypothesis, as it’s called, has received some degree of very qualified acceptance by mainstream economists. Its fundamental proposal that it doesn’t always make sense to treat comparative advantages as destiny is quite widely accepted, though more on the basis of Paul Krugman’s work in New Trade Theory (demonstrating, e.g., that comparative advantages can arise from economies of scale in addition to from initial actor endowments) than on the basis of Prebisch and Singer’s work. However, the specifics of the hypothesis are regarded as an extremely special case, an exception to what is generally true of developing countries. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that many developing countries specialize in the extraction of metals and minerals that are necessary inputs in making complex manufactured goods, like copper and silicon. These commodities likely violate Prebisch-Singer’s assumption that simple commodity goods necessarily exhibit lower income elasticity of demand than complex manufactured goods. The second reason is that many of the complex manufactured goods that the poorest countries import from wealthier countries actually probably increase those countries’ productivity in producing basic commodities (consider, for instance, the way organizations like Precision Agriculture for Development deliver scientific agricultural guidance to farmers throughout South Asia and Subsaharan Africa via their cell phones).

I’m not sure to what extent this theoretical background will be helpful to you as you think about convergence, but regarding the facts on the ground, with very few exceptions (like Botswana), almost all of the progress toward convergence in the last four decades has taken place in East Asia. While the “Asian Miracle” is very much real, it may itself prove to be a special case, specific to the region or the historical period in which it took place. As premature deindustrialization begins to take its toll on those countries that are not yet rich, there are, I think, a number of serious concerns about the continued viability of the export-led growth models that lifted countries like South Korea and Japan out of poverty. While the theoretical insights on which those models were based are robust, it remains to be seen to what extent they continue to apply in our 21st-century economy. Similarly, the traditional convergence thesis assumes increasing liberalization of international trade and capital flows, a premise that has grown increasingly untenable over the last five years.

comment by Stefan_Schubert · 2020-07-06T12:48:31.025Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Some parts of the world aren't closing in much on the US.

Regarding the global power structure, what matters is probably not overall global levels of convergence, but rather whether some large countries (e.g. China) converge with the US.

Regarding that question, it probably doesn't matter that much if a country is very poor or somewhat poor - since only relatively rich countries can compete militarily and politically anyway.

But from the perspective of global poverty and welfare, it obviously matters a lot whether a very poor country manages to reduce their level of poverty.

comment by Inda · 2020-07-06T19:11:16.825Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think there is high variance in the growth rate of developing countries. My own country (Iran) certainly does not seem to be converging much. I also think that the areas where most convergence happens are the areas that are more materialistic; The medical textbooks get imported (and somewhat learned), but the institutions and attitudes that produced the textbooks in the first place, not so much.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-19T16:30:59.446Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

How about an option to transfer Karma directly to posts/comments? Perhaps to have the transfer be public (part of the information of the karma of the comment). This may allow some interesting "trades" such as giving prizes for answers (say, like in stackexchange) or have people display more strongly support for a comment.

Damn.. As stated, when people can pay to put Karma in posts, there is a problematic "attack" against it. left as an exercise :)

I still think that Karma transfer between people and prizes on comments/posts can be very interesting

comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2019-11-21T01:18:03.619Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Off-the-cuff objection: this works inasmuch as karma is a game to get a fancy high number. But if you think of karma as the measure of the site's trust in a user, I don't want the site to trust the user less because they have elected to reward other users.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-21T06:20:40.351Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Also, what do you think of karma as a measure to the contribution of a post to the community? I realize that I am conflating this with a measure of trust, but these are not the same.

When I upvote, I usually think of how useful I think of the post for the community. Say, downvote a post because it was a waste of my time

comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2019-11-21T16:58:56.854Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Karma is awarded definitely as a recognition of the usefulness of the contribution. The user's overall karma is an unprincipled straight addition of those "usefulness scores". Still, it's the closest thing the site has to it's trust in the user and we use it to award:
 a) More influence in the form of higher-powered votes
 b) More ability to moderate one's own posts (ability to moderate personal blogposts at 50 karma, and those that have been promoted to the frontpage or community at 2000)

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-21T06:12:19.871Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Yea, makes sense. I guess that I'm just piggybacking on the karma to make trade easier.

Maybe you can have Total gained Karma and Unused Karma, where the site's trust is based on theTotal, and you can only pay using the Unused but any gain is to them both. This still leaves an option for two members to juts transfer eachother karma and artificially increase thie trust level. This is not that bad as it only amounts to 2 times as large, and I do not realy think that people on the forum would do that.

comment by JP Addison (jpaddison) · 2019-11-21T16:55:06.291Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

We've been thinking about how to make strong upvotes more costly to the user, but my memory is that Oliver (of LessWrong) wanted users not to have to manage resources.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-02-09T14:40:54.596Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

MIT has a new master's program on Development Economics. https://micromasters.mit.edu/dedp/

It is taught by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, the recent Nobel Laureates. Seems cool :)

comment by Alex_Berezhnoy · 2020-02-09T19:16:21.842Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Here's a review [EA · GW] of several courses from the program. I'm currently studying the third course out of five, and then I want to apply for on-campus accelerated Master's at MIT. I'll be happy to answer questions about the program if you have them.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-01-13T13:22:30.508Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Basic Research vs Applied Research

1. If we are at the Hinge of History, it is less reasonable to focus on long-term knowledge building via basic research, and vice versa.

2. If we have identified the most promising causes well, then targeted applied research is promising.


comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-15T15:36:31.896Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Statisticians Without Borders is a volunteer Outreach Group of the American Statistical Association that provides pro bono services in statistics and data science. Their focus is mostly on developing countries.

They have about 800 Volunteers.

Their Executive Committee consists of volunteers democratically elected from within the volunteer community every two years.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-02-23T10:50:14.698Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

[a brief note on altruistic coordination in EA]

  1. EA as a community has a distribution over people of values and world-views (which themselves are uncertain and can bayesianly be modeled as distributions).
  2. Assuming everyone have already updated their values and world-view by virtue of epistemic modesty, each member of the community should want all the resources of the community to go a certain way.
    • That can include desires about the EA resource allocation mechanism.
  3. The differences between individuals undoubtedly causes friction and resentment.
  4. It seems like the EA community is incredible in it's cooperative norms and low levels of unneeded politics.
    • There are concerns about how steady this state is.
    • Many thanks to anyone working hard to keep this so!

There's bound to be a massive room for improvement, a clear goal of what would be the best outcome considering a distribution as above, a way of measuring where we're at, an analysis of where we are heading under the current status (an implicit parliamentary model perhaps?), and suggestions for better mechanisms and norms that result from the analysis.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-02-23T19:06:44.835Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

This 2015 post by Rob Wiblin [EA · GW] (One of the top-voted in that year) is a nice example of how the community is actively cohesive

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-09-07T16:30:39.328Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Some efforts to improve scientific research:

https://www.replicationmarkets.com - A prediction market for the replicability of studies.

https://www.darpa.mil/program/systematizing-confidence-in-open-research-and-evidence - A DARPA project with the goal of giving a confidence level to results in social and behavioural studies.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-09-07T06:04:26.145Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

In the recent 80k podcast, Vitalik and Rob talked about how future de-urbanisation might lead to lower risk of catastrophe from nuclear explosions and biohazards.

This seems like a very interesting argument to lower the importance of biorisk reduction work. It seems plausible that in 20 years, advances in communication technologies would allow people to easily work remotely, advances in energy (say, solar) can allow people to live outside of the grid, advances in additive manufacturing (3d printing) and in agriculture can perhaps allow small communities to live physically isolated from the rest of the world. Also, advances in self-driving deliveries can keep isolated communities "untouched" by other people (even though, food and other materials may be transferred). This isolation is likely to enhance resilience.

This all should be contrasted with trends such as increasing ease of traveling, general increased wealth, increased competition, automation leading to more people-centric jobs, more monopolization of the food industry. These may lead to perhaps greater urbanization (but note that it is not mutually exclusive).

Vitalik Buterin: Like in nuclear case, like I did the math once and if you spread out everyone equally across the entire earth’s surface then we say 7.6 billion people divided by 150 million square kilometers of land mass gives you 51 people per square kilometer and at that rate nuclear bombs become a less cost-efficient way of killing people than hiring samurais to run around with swords and like with bio as well, right? Like the thing has to spread somehow and there’s definitely the possibility of like second and third generation stuff that just spreads across the entire world through insects and it comes up with a way of getting around oceans and gets around other things, but…
Robert Wiblin: That’s a heavy lift.
Vitalik Buterin: Yeah, it’s like a big lift, but also just in general like us kind of moving away from sort of city based like a very high density living is definitely something that I think about sometimes. Like I can easily see technology leading to it one of these days. Sort of a partial move away away from that over the next century or so.
Robert Wiblin: Yeah, so it’s a very interesting proposal that I’ve never heard before. I guess it’s like something of an offensive strict zoning requirements. Maybe we’ll have to bring back zoning in order to prevent the bio apocalypse. I just worry that even if there was a huge risk of everyone dying this way, it would just be like too hard to coordinate people to like provide a sufficient incentive to get people to move away from cities because the economic rewards of agglomeration are so vast.
Vitalik Buterin: I mean people have a private incentive to move away from cities.
Robert Wiblin: Yeah. I guess… I guess it has to be that the risk has to be demonstrated. So I suppose like maybe you need a huge disaster and then we fix it this way.
Vitalik Buterin: There is like definitely going to be panic and supply chain disruption and like all of those things in the meantime. I mean unless it somehow comes in some like very small and orderly way.
Robert Wiblin: Yeah. Have you, have you presented this idea to, to anyone and kind of gotten any feedback on like whether this is, whether this is a like possible method of reducing existential risk in the long term?
Vitalik Buterin: Not in the context of reducing it existential risks but like, I mean I have kind of talked to people about kind of moderate de-organization in general and there’s definitely people that are bullish on it. Like they’re basically just because you know, telecommuting is getting better and better. Self driving cars could eventually turn into self driving helicopters and even just drone helicopters and like Uber Eats and using all of those things can easily make like living 45 kilometers away from a city center much more tolerable than it used to be. Another interesting thing is self driving buses as a medium density transportation solution. When I was at the radical exchange conference in Detroit, I talked to a guy from, from the Boston government about this and he was really bullish on them. So the interesting thing also with driving buses is that they are like first of all very low infrastructure.
Vitalik Buterin: Like you don’t have to build the tracks and all these other things. But also right now, 60% of the cost of a bus is the driver.
Robert Wiblin: Wow.
Vitalik Buterin: Yeah. So if you get rid of the driver, like suddenly becomes a way more affordable and also you keep, once you have no driver, then it becomes economical to split up the buses in half. So they’re twice as frequent. And then you can talk about dedicated lanes for them. You can also talk about like the IT infrastructures. So you hook them up to the traffic of lights, make sure they always get priority, and then we start thinking about buses being like almost as good as subways and then this becomes something you can roll out in like a city of pretty much any population level. So yeah. And that’s, there’s definitely, these are these sort of trends of different kinds that do make it seem like it’s possible. The kind of high density metropolis as like basically at its peak right now and will even start tapering off slightly.
comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-01-09T17:55:12.625Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I think that some causes may have increasing marginal utility. Specifically, I think that it may be true in some types of research that are expected to generate insights about it's own domain.

Testing another idea for a cancer treatment is probably of decreasing marginal utility (because the low hanging fruits are being picked up), but basic research in genetics may be of increasing marginal utility (because even if others may work on the best approaches, you could still improve their productivity by giving them further insights).

This is not true if the progress in a field relies on progressing along a single "dimension" (say, a specific research direction that everyone attempts), or if researchers in that field can easily and productively change their projects and expertise.

It is true if there are multiple dimensions available, and progress along a different dimension wields insight for others to use.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-10-09T08:52:54.509Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

https://collapseos.org An operating system that should work from scrap materials in the case of civilizational collapse. Very interesting. It turns out that there is an active subreddit on civilizational collapse r/collapse. It seems that WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIEEE!

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-09-07T10:02:59.244Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Createquity was an initiative to help make the world a better place by better understanding the arts.

In 2013 they had an interesting blog post on what EA means about the importance of their work.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-05-28T10:48:04.964Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Cochrane [EA · GW] had a team set up in 2011 to investigate better Priority Setting Methods.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-19T19:42:01.910Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

I sometimes think about what would happen if EAs were completely aligned with one another, there was absolute trust and familiarity, and moral trade was easy and comprehensive. A world in which information flows easily and updates the "EA Worldview". A world in which if someone finds a projects which seems like the most important, it would be extremely simple to use one another to make that happen. A world in which people in EA work on what they can contribute most to, irrespective of their favored cause. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one 😇

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-19T20:11:40.017Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

And having great self-directed infrastructure. Coaching and psychological assistance, best learning materials and methods, easier funding for individuals

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-10-26T06:22:55.819Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Vox's Future Perfect recommended this volume on mindfulness in the Current Issues in Psychology Journal. Most of it will be closed access by Oct 30th.

This journal seems incredible anyway. Each volume is supposed to present the state of the art in different domains of psychology.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-08-16T13:35:05.426Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

https://guzey.com/how-life-sciences-actually-work/

Summary: academia has a lot of problems and it could work much better. However, these problems are not as catastrophic as an outside perspective would suggest. My (contrarian, I guess) intuition is that scientific progress in biology is not slowing down. Specific parts of academia that seem to be problematic: rigid, punishing for deviation, career progression; peer review; need to constantly fundraise for professors. Parts that seem to be less of a problem than I initially thought: short-termism; lack of funding for young scientists.

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-04-24T13:42:22.339Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Perhaps some EA orgs can distribute "impact shares" of their organization/project to volunteers based on their success, where 'impact prizes' are given by a third party, perhaps much later on. That may have much more motivational value than paying similar amount of (comparably very small) amount of money, and the records of which might enable some sort of better vetting mechanism

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2020-04-13T20:00:07.060Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Note to self: read on moral enhancement some day

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-11-25T22:54:05.464Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Nightdreaming on different aspects of Capacity Building for EA:

Community Building, in the sense of getting more people who are better engaged and with good supporting communities.

Increasing Prestige and normalizing EA-Weirdness in academia, governments and elsewhere.

More money for EA as a whole. Securing sources for the future of the movement, perhaps using some sort of donor advised fund.

Better infrastructure for Altruistic Coordination. Implementations that can increase "liquidity" in moral trade, from donations to knowledge transfer to volunteering opportunities.

Improving research and general productivity. Institutionally or individually.

Better Tools and Frameworks for figuring out what is the most good. Say, the discussions around ITN.

Display that we are actually doing good right now. Just figured that pretty much anything can help build better capacity, but the question is which is better?

comment by EdoArad (edoarad) · 2019-10-10T19:08:20.526Z · EA(p) · GW(p)

Reading Multiagent Models of Mind [? · GW] and considering the moral patienthood of different cognitive processes:

A trolly is headed toward an healthy individual lying carelessly on the track. You are next to a lever, and can switch the trolly to a second track, but on that track there is an individual with a split brain. What do you do?