Posts

Why I'm concerned about Giving Green 2021-01-20T22:59:20.608Z
Forecasts about EA organisations which are currently on Metaculus. 2020-12-29T17:42:18.572Z
Incentive Problems With Current Forecasting Competitions. 2020-11-10T21:40:46.317Z
What questions would you like to see forecasts on from the Metaculus community? 2020-07-26T14:40:17.356Z
Climate change donation recommendations 2020-07-16T21:17:57.720Z
[Linkpost] - Mitigation versus Supression for COVID-19 2020-03-16T21:01:28.273Z
If you (mostly) believe in worms, what should you think about WASH? 2020-02-18T16:47:12.319Z
alexrjl's Shortform 2019-11-02T22:43:28.641Z
What book(s) would you want a gifted teenager to come across? 2019-08-05T13:39:09.324Z
Can the EA community copy Teach for America? (Looking for Task Y) 2019-02-21T13:38:33.921Z
Amazon Smile 2018-11-18T20:16:27.180Z

Comments

Comment by alexrjl on Why I'm concerned about Giving Green · 2021-01-27T22:46:08.076Z · EA · GW

Thanks for the great work you're doing! It's exciting to see numbers on donor preferences (even if the samples are small so far). I think this data you are collecting has potential to be really helpful in forming answers to a couple of the high level questions I raised at the start, and I have a few thoughts on how to extend this. I'll send you a message.

Comment by alexrjl on Why I'm concerned about Giving Green · 2021-01-27T22:42:36.089Z · EA · GW

I think the extent to which I agree on this depends pretty heavily on context. If we're talking about a major company which wants to use offsets to claim that it's carbon neutral, then inelasticity with respect to cost makes sense (though even then I'm not totally convinced the elasticity is literally 0). I think this is importantly not true when it comes to, for lack of a better phrase "retail" offsetters. 

i.e. the sort of people who might want to offset their yearly carbon emissions, or a flight that they feel guilty about. In this case, I think presenting a very expensive option as being best risks causing them to choose nothing at all rather than either a cheaper offset or offsetting as much as they can afford.

In practice, I think everyone would much rather this sort of donor was steered away from offsets altogether, but in the case where they aren't, I think cost effectiveness makes sense. This logic seems to weakly apply to companies as well, in the sense that it may be one or two people pushing the comany to make a commitment from the inside, and I can see the probability that those people are successful being at least somewhat dependent on the size of the ask.

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-27T12:02:25.689Z · EA · GW

Nuno and I discussed this a bit more privately. He thought the bullets above were broadly true, but that the post didn't really contribute to them.  I agreed that the contribution was small, but summarised why I thought it was nonzero as:
 


Roughly, it's annoying for (some) non-NT people to read, especially when they don't have "typical presentation", and in general unsophisticated discussion embeds the stereotypical ideas.

It just seemed to be a case of small downside and v little upside.

Nuno convinced me that the inclusion had more upside than I had originally thought. This combined with Alex's note means I'm now fine with the title.

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-27T11:51:42.142Z · EA · GW

This was intended to highlight that caring about harms to "bad leaders" and caring about harms to to autistic people are meaningfully different. I care about the latter, and don't really care at all about theformer. I'm assuming from the downvotes that this was not clear.

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T20:34:45.375Z · EA · GW

It's possible Brian and I had different concerns, and that I misunderstood him, so I'll leave it to him to clean up. I actually don't think we disagree much, I don't think discussion of autism/ autistic traits is a problem, for example noting that really good mathematicians have higher AQ than average as part of a discussion would be completely fine.

In this case, I don't think the term added much, as rather than any kind of useful discussion it appeared in the title and nowhere else. A very tl;dr summary of the problems with public understanding is:

  • Autism, even restricting to high functioning autism, is much more heterogeneous than most people realise/than is typically portrayed.
  • This contributes to under-diagnosis, especially of those who don't present in the stereotypical way. This is more often a problem for women, though not limited to them.
  • It also often causes difficulties for autistic people in terms of how their difficulties are perceived by others, including their faimilies. As one example, even after diagnosis, autistic people who have learned to mask their difficulty with social interaction will frequently have the potentially still profound difficulties they experience in other areas underestimated by people who interact with them and don't see the rudeness they expect.
  • Even the more "positive" aspects of stereotypical presentation, about genius or visionary status, can be very difficult to deal with, and cause anxiety around inadequacy and/or imposter syndrome.

I don't expect that, on the margin, this post will change much, but as I've said a few times, I think there's basically 0 cost to making the decision not to contribute to this problem, unless you put high cost on ever admitting to a mistake.

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T18:44:31.574Z · EA · GW

I might be misunderstanding Brian here, but I don't think the objection was "you shouldn't call people autistic because being autistic is bad". Certainly that's not my view. I also don't think Brian was calling for a ban on non-diagnosed use, I certainly wasn't.

Autism isn't mentioned in the piece, and Alex has already retreated to the "it's just my impression, I wasn't actually saying they were" bailey, so I'm still not sure what the point of leaving it in is, other than having succesfully refused to "give in to the mob" (of three people who asked him to consider changing the title), but it looks like it's staying, so I guess everyone can go home happy the mob was cowed in this case.

One reason many people object to the (fairly common) suggestions that so-and-so celeb who happens to be a bit techy and/or rude in some way is autistic are that those suggestions contribute to and are symptomatic of an extremely poor public understanding of autism, which is not unrelated to the lack of diagnosis mentioned by both you and Nuno.

I've sent Nuno a message offering to discuss further offline, as a lot of my thoughts here are informed by strong inside-view things which aren't public, will potentially write up anything that comes out of that but otherwise am unlikely to engage much further on here. 

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T12:18:55.133Z · EA · GW

What's stopping you changing that here? Your article is nothing to do with autism. Changing the title would take less time than you've spent arguing in this thread, and improve the article in the eyes of at least two people (probably more judging from the upvotes) who feel strongly enough about it to have spent time engaging with you about it.

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T12:13:51.218Z · EA · GW

It's a lot easier to learn to be a better leader than it is to learn not to be autistic...

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T11:32:44.510Z · EA · GW

If I wasn't a fan of your other work I'd have written you off as trolling at the point. The costs from random people on the internet hypothesizing about who's autistic are not only borne by the people you are hypothesising about, they are also borne by actually autistic people.

I don't see what the upside is for you, other than not having to admit to a mistake. Neither Brian nor I disliked the article, and the article in no way relies on the claim that the people you are discussing are autistic. We're just asking you not to throw around pseudodiagnoses about a condition that's already pretty badly misunderstood.

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T11:16:52.798Z · EA · GW

That isn't even close to the same thing.

Comment by alexrjl on (Autistic) visionaries are not natural-born leaders · 2021-01-26T11:05:58.831Z · EA · GW

I strongly agree with Brian and would have written essentially the same comment had he not done so already. Please consider changing your title here.

Edit: having discussed this some more, including privately, while I am concerned about the same thing as Brian, I think his post can be read in a less charitable way than I had originally interpreted it. My concerns are outlined elsewhere, and I still hold them, but the "would have written essentially the same comment" no longer stands.

Comment by alexrjl on Why I'm concerned about Giving Green · 2021-01-26T10:14:04.873Z · EA · GW

Hi Sarah, 

I think you've outlined a case for why you think progressive climate activism is good. I agree that it is good on-net. I think, from his comment, so does Johannes. But when we evaluate charities the typical approach is to look at the expected value of donations on the margin. This is a very different question to "does the thing seem positive overall". 

As one specific example:

Climate change is already a partisan issue. I’d argue that it's partisan mostly not because of what progressive climate activists are doing, but rather because of right wing climate denialism.

TSM's stated goal is to increase polarisation. Making climate change more of a partisan can be bad on the margin even if someone else is primarily "to blame". 

In general, your thinking currently seems to be framed as [minor/not really worth it objectives from CATF] versus [brilliant transformative objectives from progressive activists]. I don't think this framing is accurate.

As Johannes discussed at length, CATF's push for new technologies has the potential for global impact, not just national. Climate change is a global problem, not just an American one. This idea of looking at the global picture is not unique to CATF among EA recommendations, see also ITIF for example. Secondly, some of the work I'm most excited about from CATF is their thinking around zero-carbon fuels, which are going to be vital to decarbonising things like long-distance freight, international shipping etc,  where battery-technology just won't cut it. Again, I think this whole-system analysis is extremely far from just pushing for minor, incremental change.

Comment by alexrjl on Why I'm concerned about Giving Green · 2021-01-23T11:44:54.057Z · EA · GW

It feels like we're talking past each other a bit, so I'm going to try to clarify my position below but not add anything new. I don't think the reply above adresses it, but that could well be due to lack of clarity on my part.

Sign of impact

  • I don't think the problem with TSM is that there's non-zero probability mass on negative outcomes. This is, as you point out, true for basically anything.
  • My issue with TSM is that, for the reasons laid out above, I think the probability mass on negative outcomes is extremely signficant, especially when compared to other good options, for example CATF. This would be enough to make it underperform CATF in expectation even if it had similar upside, though I don't actually think it does.

 

Consistency

To make recommendations, one must use gathered evidence and judgment to determine the distribution of impacts, and  whether this estimated distribution merits a recommendation...

...This stuff isn't easy. But the fact that there is some probability mass on negative impact is not disqualifying, nor should it be. 

I agree with this. In fact, I still agree with it when the following words are added:

To make recommendations about preferring one organisation over another, one must use gathered evidence and judgment to determine the distributions of impact for each organisation, and  whether the estimated distribution of the difference in impact merits a recommendation of one over the other...

...This stuff isn't easy. But the fact that there is some probability mass on negative impact if we only recommend the organisation which we think is best in expectation is not disqualifying, nor should it be. 

I think both the quote from you and the one I've added bold text to are true.

Individual chapters of Sunrise


Critics trying to take down Sunrise frequently pull out the most radical quote they can find from one of the local chapters and use it to disqualify the whole organization, but I don't really think that's valid.

I pulled that quote to indicate that the decentralised nature of Sunrise means any claims about its work being in any sense atypical of progressive activism more broadly are hard to believe. This is relevant not because one bad quote should discredit an organisation, but because I showed above that climate activism in general is not neglected, and you responded that effective climate activism is not neglected. But both statements can only simultaneously be true if Sunrise's activism is meaningfully different from progressive activism more broadly, and it doesn't appear to be.

Comment by alexrjl on Forecasts about EA organisations which are currently on Metaculus. · 2021-01-22T21:51:25.226Z · EA · GW

Thanks! I've now added it

Comment by alexrjl on Why I'm concerned about Giving Green · 2021-01-22T10:58:13.710Z · EA · GW

Other than the clarification in my other comment, I think the most important disagreement we have is about Sunrise, so I'm going to primarily talk about that.

Neglectedness


it’s true that TSM’s budget has grown massively over the last few years (as has CATF’s for that matter), but I think that’s a poor proxy for neglectedness. I think that there is very little effective climate activism happening out there, and there’s huge room for effective growth. 

TSM's budget growing by 1.5 orders of magnitude since 2015 isn't sufficient to show that they aren't neglected, but I think it is sufficient to show that donations data from 2015 should not be relied on to make the case for neglectedness, especially as arguably the most famous activist in the cause area also didn't start campaigning until 3 years later. 

The claim that "there's very little effective climate activism happening" is very different from the claim that climate activism in general is neglected, and I think may well be true, but that claim only applies to TSM if their activism is unusually effective compared to progressive activism more broadly (which is far from neglected), and I don't think you've shown that. To the extent that TSM has goals, which is somewhat limited, those goals seem to be very typical of progressive climate activism in general, which as discussed is extremely far from being neglected. Sunrise Seattle's open opposition to cap and trade is one recent example.

Sign of Impact

I would just say that [the impact may be negative] is lobbed at a lot of organizations, since people have different theories of political change.

Isn't the whole point of doing charity evaluation as opposed to just donating wherever you like that you can evaluate whether these sorts of claims are credible? I appreciate that you're time pressured and am grateful for the time you've already given but I was really hoping for more than just "other organisations have this lobbed at them too".

It doesn't really feel consistent to me to take the position when comparing [donate to TSM] and [donate to CATF] that "there's loads of uncertainty so we won't make the call", but then when comparing [Recommend TSM as they are +EV] to [Don't recommend TSM as they are -EV], take the position "sure there's loads of uncertainty but on balance the former is the best option". What's the difference I'm missing between the two cases?

Comment by alexrjl on Why I'm concerned about Giving Green · 2021-01-21T19:06:23.156Z · EA · GW

Thanks Dan,  I'm glad to see the comment and will have a more thorough look later. I wanted to clarify one thing though.


Alex is of the opinion that because we haven’t explicitly quantitatively modeled some of the tradeoffs we face, that the analysis isn’t to be trusted. (emphasis mine)

This  isn't quite right.  I don't agree with some of your analysis, but the reason I don't agree is not the lack of quant models, it's the things detailed above.

Separately, I do think we disagree on whether quantitative modelling is useful even in cases of very high uncertainty (I think it is). I also think that the act of trying to quantify models tends to improve analysis, and that making explicit models makes analysis much easier for others to critique, which is a good thing if our end goal is having correct analysis.

Comment by alexrjl on EA and the Possible Decline of the US: Very Rough Thoughts · 2021-01-09T23:56:35.269Z · EA · GW

Similar question for 2031 now upcoming.

Comment by alexrjl on What posts do you want someone to write? · 2021-01-04T08:48:48.549Z · EA · GW

I'd be excited to read this.

Comment by alexrjl on How much more important is work in USA over UK? · 2021-01-03T11:11:25.418Z · EA · GW

I'm somewhat glad you didn't, as I think your broader question is still a good one. Best of luck with your specific situation though!

Comment by alexrjl on How much more important is work in USA over UK? · 2021-01-03T11:03:16.504Z · EA · GW

I think that is fair, though as your situation is prety much exactly the unusual one I described I'd rather you asked someone with better knowledge, as in your case personal fit seems much less likely to dominate.

Comment by alexrjl on How much more important is work in USA over UK? · 2021-01-03T10:02:48.192Z · EA · GW

Moderately confident about the below; I know several people working in the UK civil service, and have some experience of the US->UK immigration process, but I don't work in government/policy myself. My prior in general is that people underestimate the importance of personal fit, as the majority of impact comes relatively late in a career, so leaving early has large costs. IIRC this view was expressed by Rob Wiblin, maybe on a guest appearance he had on another podcast which was x-posted to the 80k podcast, but I'm much less certain about that.


I would be somewhat surprised if the impact difference for doing a similar type of role in US/UK policy was a dominating factor compared to personal fit and probability of getting such a role, at least for most people. 

If you're young, single (or have a partner who works remotely), and have reason to think moving to a different country would not be particularly difficult or stressful for you, or if you live in neither country but want to move to one of them, then asking these questions seems prudent. If that's not the case, I would expect that your expected impact would be higher going for roles in the country where you currently live, once you control for thnigs like how long you'll be able to stay in the role, how likely you are to get the job, perform well, understand the culture etc.

Comment by alexrjl on Announcing the Forecasting Innovation Prize · 2020-12-30T13:54:10.598Z · EA · GW

We'd be happy to accept this.

Comment by alexrjl on Forecasts about EA organisations which are currently on Metaculus. · 2020-12-30T12:52:54.679Z · EA · GW

If you work for an EA-aligned organisation and would like some help developing questions like the above, for example in order to inform the plans/goals of the organisation, or to compare to internal forecasts, please get in touch with me!

Comment by alexrjl on Introducing High Impact Athletes · 2020-12-22T17:47:18.711Z · EA · GW

Having spoken to Marcus about his goals, I ended up developing 3 questions about the future of HIA for Metaculus. It would be great to have some EAF users come and post predictions and reasoning on them!

How much money will have been donated by HIA athletes by the end of 2021?

What fraction of athletes who take the HIA pledge before the end of 2021 will maintain it through the end of 2024?

How many athletes with HIA pledges will there be at the end of 2021?

Comment by alexrjl on Update on the 0.7% (£4bn for the poor) · 2020-12-19T23:03:05.022Z · EA · GW

The opinion poll option would not be helpful as an overwhelming majority of Conservative voters, and a majority of non-Conservative voters, are in favour of cutting our aid commitment.

Comment by alexrjl on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-14T22:12:50.769Z · EA · GW

I'd have thought the civil service with a view to either ending up in foreign policy or, potentially (though you wouldn't be able to talk about it) military intelligence might be reasonable goals for someone with modern languages who's also generally bright. If were interested in going down the civil service route, there are several EAs who I'd be happy to put you in touch with (though some are on the forum and may comment. The fast stream seems like a decent first step though, and would probably lead to quicker career progression than consulting first, though less flexibility, especially to pivot into E2G.

Comment by alexrjl on Careers Questions Open Thread · 2020-12-10T17:14:44.917Z · EA · GW

For fusion to take off, nuclear engineering is gong to need to become much bigger than it is now. ChemEng for clean meat if you care about animals seems like a good shout as well. EE could be interesting if you want to work on AI but improving AI capability is not necessarily positive, in the worst case scenario you shorten timelines but do nothing for alignment.

I think personal fit matters here though, not just with what cause area you're interested in but with what degree you do. Doing well in a quant degree that you're good at and interested in (which means you'll put more time into doing well) will give you lots of useful skills and signalling value, leaving many strong options on the table.

Comment by alexrjl on Progress Open Thread: December 2020 · 2020-12-09T11:01:58.011Z · EA · GW

Thanks! I'm planning increase the rate of uploads over Christmas.

Comment by alexrjl on What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change? · 2020-12-08T06:47:38.066Z · EA · GW

At least Chlorine dispensers seem robustly good. Like, not for climate, but for human wellbeing generally. In fact, under not-completely-crazy assumptions, they outperform deworming.

Comment by alexrjl on Progress Open Thread: December 2020 · 2020-12-06T21:38:06.246Z · EA · GW

I ran a forecasting and question-writing workshop with LSE-EA's Arete fellows. I had a lot of fun in the session and there were many very interesting questions asked at the end. The feedback I've received so far has been positive.

I've been hoping for a while to find something EA-related that uses the skills I've developed in my teaching career, so this was very encouraging.

Comment by alexrjl on Progress Open Thread: December 2020 · 2020-12-06T21:33:51.630Z · EA · GW

EA T-shirt in the headshot as well :)

Comment by alexrjl on Monthly or yearly payments · 2020-12-06T14:12:46.006Z · EA · GW

If you can wait and donate when there's a particularly good matching opportunity (for example the Facebook match on Giving Tuesday), you'll end up giving a slightly higher total that way. The big downside to this is that it's much easier to set up a standing order and not cancel it than it is to make a large annual donation on a particular day while focusing on where to get the best match for it.

The other advantage of a standing order is that it keeps you connected to the community. I set up a trivially small standing order in 2012 while I was still a student, and I think it played a part in keeping me aware of the community, with me ending up getting increasingly involved over the last few years (and now donating more than 100x more).

Comment by alexrjl on Long-Term Future Fund: Ask Us Anything! · 2020-12-06T14:08:47.504Z · EA · GW

Do you feel that someone who had applied, unsuccessfully, and then re-applied for a similar project (but perhaps having gathered more evidence), would be more likely, less likely, or equally likely to get funding than someone submitting an identical application to the second case, but not having been rejected once before, having chosen to not apply?

It feels easy to get into the mindset of "Once I've done XYZ, my application will be stronger, so I should do those things before applying", and if that's a bad line of reasoning to use (which I suspect it might be), some explicit reassurance might result in more applications.

Comment by alexrjl on £4bn for the global poor: the UK's 0.7% · 2020-12-06T14:04:09.889Z · EA · GW

This question is now open! You can see the community prediction by mousing over the text.

Comment by alexrjl on What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change? · 2020-12-05T15:13:32.773Z · EA · GW

https://medium.com/@robertwiblin/what-you-think-about-landfill-and-recycling-is-probably-totally-wrong-3a6cf57049ce

https://www2.mst.dk/udgiv/publications/2018/02/978-87-93614-73-4.pdf 

Comment by alexrjl on What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change? · 2020-12-05T15:11:20.934Z · EA · GW

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/engineering/news/2020/12/01-glass-bottles-worse-for-environment.page

Comment by alexrjl on What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change? · 2020-12-05T15:10:36.218Z · EA · GW

This is actively harmful given that glass is heavier and more fragile.

Comment by alexrjl on What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change? · 2020-12-05T15:10:16.340Z · EA · GW

This does almost exactly 0 good for the environment, but harms people with some physical impairments who needs straws to eat/drink.

Comment by alexrjl on What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change? · 2020-12-05T15:08:50.350Z · EA · GW

Replacing plastic containers with glass.

Comment by alexrjl on What are the "PlayPumps" of Climate Change? · 2020-12-05T15:07:10.196Z · EA · GW

Reducing plastic bag/straw use in the west.

Comment by alexrjl on £4bn for the global poor: the UK's 0.7% · 2020-12-01T17:23:01.511Z · EA · GW

As requested, a question on whether this plan will suceed (opens in two days).

Comment by alexrjl on Opportunity to increase EA org funding by ~$200K/year if a couple hundred EAs take 1 minute on Giving Tuesday · 2020-12-01T12:45:57.565Z · EA · GW

Because it's the sort of thing I do, I wrote a metaculus question on whether this will succeed. It would be cool to see the people discussing the potential success of this plan put numbers on their claims.

 

Comment by alexrjl on Opportunity to increase EA org funding by ~$200K/year if a couple hundred EAs take 1 minute on Giving Tuesday · 2020-12-01T11:45:09.882Z · EA · GW

This seems to have very low cost and a nontrivial chance of a very substantial positive effect. If nothing else, if you're on Twitter anyway it's probably worth the few seconds it takes to search for #NoFees4Charity and like a bunch of the tweets.

Comment by alexrjl on Introducing High Impact Athletes · 2020-12-01T09:45:46.285Z · EA · GW

Counterpoint: 

People tend to inside-view slightly too hard, so I'd expect the experience of the FP/GWWC team working with high net worth people, and TLYCS working with celebrities, to be extremely valuable even if none of the HNW/celebs are sportspeople. 

Also, at least some of the potential massive impact of HIA (and one of the reasons I'm most excited about it) is the huge platform Athletes have. That means that there wre two considerations when messaging to athletes: what message is most appealing to them, and what message is most appealing to a general audience once relayed by them. I would not be surprised if the best course of action was one which got slightly fewer athletes on board, but those athletes felt able to articulate a clear, positive message, which got a wider audience very excited about effective giving.

I agree that debating on the EAF with randoms like us isn't a productive way of Marcus fine-tuning his messaging (even if we might be able to make some forecasts), but I'm excited to see that there's some sort of collaboration with TLYCS, and I think talking to them, REG, GWWC, and FP would be a much better path than experimenting alone.

Comment by alexrjl on Introducing High Impact Athletes · 2020-11-30T15:38:35.535Z · EA · GW

Upside seems low, downside seems pretty high.

Comment by alexrjl on Introducing High Impact Athletes · 2020-11-30T15:36:37.317Z · EA · GW

Sanjay has a lot of experience on the advisory/trustee side of charities. I'd recommend sending him a PM if you haven't already.

Comment by alexrjl on If someone identifies as a longtermist, should they donate to Founders Pledge's top climate charities than to GiveWell's top charities? · 2020-11-29T17:41:45.858Z · EA · GW

Hey everyone if you think Brian is wrong about not deserving lots of Karma for posting an interesting and well thought out question you can just upvote this reply he made (I did).

Comment by alexrjl on Prize: Interesting Examples of Evaluations · 2020-11-29T10:27:55.129Z · EA · GW

Difficulty ratings in outdoor rock-climbing
Common across all types of climbing are the following features of grades:

  • A subjective difficulty assessment of the climb, by the first person to climb it, is used for them to "propose" a grade.
  • Other people to manage the same climb may suggest a different grade. Often the grade of a climb will not be agreed upon in the community until several ascents have been made.
  • Climbing guidebooks publish grades, typically based on the authors' opinion of current consensus, though some online platforms where people can vote on grades exist.
  • Grades can change even after a consensus has appeared stable. This might be due to a hold breaking, however it may also be due to a new sequence being discovered.
  • Grades tend to approach a single stable point, even though body shape and size (particularly height and armspam) can make a large difference to difficulty.

There are many different grading systems for different types of climb, a good overview is here. Some differences of interest:

  • While most systems grade the overall difficulty of the entire climb, British trad climbs have two grades, niether of which purely map to overall difficulty. The first describes a combination of overall difficulty and safety (so an unsafe, but easy climb, may have a higher rating than a safe), the second describes the difficulty only of the hardest move or short sequence (which can be very different from the overall difficulty, as endurance is a factor).
  • Aid climbs, which allow climbers to use ropes to aid their movement rather than only for protection, are graded seperately. However other technology is not considered "aid". In particular, climbing grades have steadily increased over time, at least in part due to development of better shoe technology. More recently, the development of rubberised kneepads has lead to several notable downgrades of hard boulders and routes, as the kneepads make much longer rests possible.

I think climbing grading is interesting as the grades emerge out of a complex set of social interactions, and despite most climbers frequently saying things like "grades are subjective", and "grades don't really matter", they in general remain remarkably stable, and important to many climbers.

Comment by alexrjl on Needed: Volunteer forecasters for Fish Welfare Initiative · 2020-11-21T23:43:55.189Z · EA · GW

How would you like people to contact you? If it's by posting an answer: hi, I'll help.

Comment by alexrjl on Incentive Problems With Current Forecasting Competitions. · 2020-11-18T21:54:52.279Z · EA · GW

Thanks Ben, this is interesting. I think we disagree somewhat on the extent to which relative Brier avoids the question selection problem (see Nuno's comment on this), and also whether it's desirable to award no points for agreeing with the crowd, but I definitely think the case for relative Brier being the best option is reasonable and that you have made it well.

I'm interested in particular in your comment on extremising meaning that it's possible that the overconfidence incentive in some tournament scoring is desirable. My understanding is that the qualitative argument for extremising being useful is that if several people independently rate an event as being almost certain, they may have different reasons for doing so. It seems that the benefit of extremising may be much smaller, and possibly non-existent, if a crowd can see the aggregate forecast, possibly moreso if the crowd can see every individual forecast that's been made. Do you know of any research on this? I'd be interested to see some.

As far as I know, the Metaculus algorithm does not "deliberately" extremise, however the exact procedure is not public, and it did recently produce a very confident set of predictions!