Posts

Comment by Aditya Vaze on Should GMOs (e.g. golden rice) be a cause area? · 2022-02-01T09:17:14.561Z · EA · GW

I'm really glad to see this post, but I do believe that the direct nutritional benefit from Golden Rice is only the tip of the iceberg. The stigmatization of GMOs is perhaps the largest factor limiting innovation in food tech, agritech, and biotech. Fixing this would have massive implications for farmed animal welfare, climate change, food security, biodiversity, and longevity.

Comment by Aditya Vaze on Seeking Math + Programming Accelerated Learning Advice · 2022-01-17T11:44:25.317Z · EA · GW

I've also been self-teaching myself similar topics. Reading books and working through the exercises works much better for me personally than watching videos. For Python, I recommend Think Python 2e, which is freely available here, and Charles Severance's Python for Everybody on FreeCodeCamp. For Machine Learning, the gold standard is An Introduction to Statistical Learning. The exercises are in R, but I think you can find Python versions somewhere on the internet.

For Statistics and Probability I used OpenIntro, but I've also got Pishro-Nik's Introduction to Probability, Statistics, and Random Processes on my list as a more advanced next book. For Differential Equations and Linear Algebra, I'm using Strang's book of the same name, and the associated MIT OCW lectures.

Send me a PM if you'd like to discuss further!

Comment by Aditya Vaze on Some quick notes on "effective altruism" · 2021-03-25T00:05:39.075Z · EA · GW

Strongly agree. The potential benefits of selection effects are underrated in these discussions.

Comment by Aditya Vaze on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-14T10:37:58.529Z · EA · GW

Are you saying ethnic minorities in the West are less likely to be WEIRD and hence underrepresented in EA, or that ethnic minorities who are WEIRD are underrepresented in EA? The former wouldn't surprise me at all, given the significant disparities in income and educational opportunity between ethnic minorities in the West. The latter would surprise me, but I'm not sure how you would go about proving it, since it would require you to already have an estimate of demographics of true WEIRDs, and I'm not sure how you'd go about collecting that. Unless the assumption that any educated person from a Western Developed country is WEIRD, which I would disagree with.

Comment by Aditya Vaze on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-08T11:22:28.024Z · EA · GW

Hi Lukas, thanks for your kind words! I agree with you on most points - my analysis was mostly regarding ethnic identities rather than those relating to gender, sexuality or political orientation, since the former is what I have experience with. I do of course think that EA would benefit from more equal representation of these groups, and my intuition is that it's more tractable as well (relative to religious or ethnic minorities). I'm not entirely sure why women are underrepresented in EA or even if that is indeed the case. If it is, I'd imagine it's related to the same reason they're underrepresented in fields like computer engineering, which EA draws much of its membership from - some complex combination of innate differences, social conditioning and discrimination. I'm not sure how you would fix this, but what I'm trying to do is cautioning against shortcuts - the negative effects of deliberately  trying to increase diversity may outweigh the benefits, since any selection mechanism would likely introduce more bias than already exists in the community at large. Decentralized, organic change seems to be the way to go, but that takes time. Curious to hear OP (or other feminist identifying people's) take on this.

To address your point on opening up to different perspectives, while I think EA's openness to change is one of its greatest strengths, there is such a thing as being too open to different perspectives; as you've recognized, that would eventually just make us the mainstream. You do need to have some degree of confidence in your values. Along the same lines, the survey will of course be biased, because it's supposed to be! It would not be an effective selection mechanism if it did not already represent the existing values of the community, whether those values originate from the current demographic makeup of EA or are unrelated to it. Creating social norms that are truly unbiased seems like an infinite regress problem, so my preferred approach would be evolutionary - let different local EA chapters adopt different social norms, then promote the norms that are most successful in achieving the broader aims of the EA community.

Comment by Aditya Vaze on In diversity lies epistemic strength · 2021-02-08T09:08:59.775Z · EA · GW

TL;DR Underrepresented groups are underrepresented because they self-select into EA circles at lower rates due to divergent values. Concerted initiatives to increase diversity are strongly biased towards the values of the people running the initiative. Communities are exclusionary by necessity.

I hope as one of the rare developing world EAs, my perspective is useful here. This post is a nice thought, but like many nice thoughts relating to diversity I believe it collapses on deeper consideration of how it would be implemented. There is a reason EA mainly consists of WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic) people, and underrepresented groups are not underrepresented due to some conspiracy to exclude them. It's because EA is based on a set of assumptions derived from WEIRD patterns of thought that are not common outside certain groups. For example, statements such as "All people's lives should be valued equally regardless of their age, gender, sexuality, religion etc." or "Empirical reasoning is the best path towards truth" would receive very different levels of agreement at Germany  universities and Bangladeshi villages. Be careful what you wish for! Those who claim to seek diversity are also the most likely to be horrified when they find it.  As a result most diversity initiatives in WEIRD circles tend to only select members of underrepresented groups from an elite, liberally educated minority within those groups who are rarely representative of the values of the groups as a whole, and much more representative of the values of the diversity seekers. So I more or less agree with other commenters on this post - demographic diversity is a fairly poor proxy for intellectual diversity, especially  when it is brought in through a concerted effort to increase diversity, rather than in an organic manner that reflects the changing norms of different groups and the communities they are joining.

Communities are exclusionary by necessity : the questions you ask to determine entry are biased by the perspectives of existing members because they have to be! There is no reason for the community to exist if it is perfectly representative of all opinions in society at large - to paraphrase Syndrome, if you have everyone's values, you have no values. Would I be happy to meet more EAs who shared my background? Of course! Would I be happy if this happened at the cost of losing the values that make EA such a powerful lens with which to view the world? Hell no! Diversity is good at the margin, but it is not an intrinsic good. There is a balancing point that is best for the overall health of the community - it's important to try to rigorously determine what that is before making calls for increasing diversity.

One concrete way to do that would be to carry out two very large surveys - one of EAs, and one of randomly sampled people. They would measure agreement with certain values that are generally considered axiomatic to the EA way of thought. We could then statistically determine whether certain values cluster with certain identities, and the degree to which those values/identities are represented within EA. Would be a lot of work and money, but I believe it's the only rigorous and safe way to run a diversity initiative!